Gayla Lee was first entranced by glass at the age of eight when she encountered a glassblower at a Renaissance festival. Her fascination with the material eventually led her to an apprenticeship in a Baltimore glass studio at the age of 20. After a couple years of working with glass herself, she began making trips to Corning in order to take classes with artists such as Mark Matthews, Robin Cass, and Bill Gudenrath at The Studio.
After taking several classes, Gayla began to ask, “What can I do to be here more?” Now she can be found in Corning half a dozen times a year or so to work as a teaching assistant for artists such as Mark Ditzler, Josh Simpson, and Yoko Yagi, as well as to teach classes in fusing techniques.
Gayla has had the opportunity to share her knowledge with others and to learn through working with other artists. She notes, however, that “it can be difficult for working artists to have access to professional development” due to time and financial restraints. Recently, she was awarded the Celebrity scholarship to take Davide Salvadore’s class, Creating and Using Murrine – her first glassblowing class in six years.
In this class, students pulled cane to form simple components, which were then fused together to form a pattern, repulled, and cut into murrine. Rather than entering the class with a specific goal or concept in mind, Gayla was intrigued by learning nontraditional methods of making murrine and watching a true master put these pieces to use. Gayla’s work often features geometric patterns and tessellations, and learning from Salvadore, she has been able to gather ideas and expand her skills in the week-long class.
“[Studio classes] are very conducive to creativity,” she explains, “everything you need, Corning provides,” from tools and glass to access to affordable food and lodging. “Everything you need to know is probably already here,” she says, referring to the wealth of information and inspiration at the Museum and the Rakow Research Library.
Though Gayla resides in Annapolis, Maryland, her close relationship with The Studio provides her with a comfortable creative outlet away from home. “I do a lot of my work up here,” she says, adding enthusiastically, “I’ve never been to a nicer glass studio.”