This past summer, seven emerging and established glass artists came to The Studio at The Corning Museum of Glass to participate in Mel George’s Kiln Allegories class. When teaching a class, George takes her surroundings into account. “[I] try to give the students special experiences that the individual places can offer,” she explained in a letter. For this class, she was influenced by the mission and collections of the Rakow Research Library. “I have always known the Rakow Research Library is the best for glass in the world, and did use this as the inspiration for the first project.”
Each week while Studio classes are in session, Library staff members give students an introduction to Library services and collections. The introduction includes a tour of the collections, which incorporates a look behind the scenes in the room where rare and special collections are stored. George and her students came to one of these tours, and were inspired by some of the books they saw. They arranged to come back a second time to look at the books in the Library’s collection which incorporate glass.
During their second visit, the class got a chance to examine books such as Michael Glancy’s Infinite Obsessions and Modernt svenskt glas (ed. Gregor Paulsson). The students discussed the different thoughts and emotions each book evoked, and reflected on their own projects. An impromptu reading rounded out the trip.
The students returned to The Studio, and, as George explains, “[the] tour of the library, the items and library philosophies, seeped into [their] books.” Her assignment for the students was to “make a book, made of glass, which speaks to their personal story as artists. Essentially, each book is an artist’s visual poem that utilizes surfaces, images, forms, textures and light to harmonize as well as personal palettes of colors to evoke feelings related to their ideas.”
At the end of the class, George and her students invited several members of the Library and Museum staff to an afternoon tea. George spoke about the project and how the Library’s collections inspired the assignment. Each student had a chance to talk about their book and the story behind it. No two books were alike in form or concept. The students pulled their inspiration from their families, Aboriginal culture, memories, and experiences, as well as how books shape their readers, the experience of reading to another person or being read to, the thought that there are no new ideas, and the spaces in between things.
Two of the glass books were directly inspired by the oldest item in the Library collection, the Mappae clavicula. The glass recalls the textures and colors of the 12th century manuscript.
The artists donated their glass books to the Museum, which, to George, was a fitting way to end the class. To her, the books represent the time the artists spent here, and the donation was a “beautiful, poetic, finale for my class.”
Just as the Rakow Research Library inspired Mel George’s class, libraries everywhere have long been inspiring artists working in all types of mediums. This topic will be the focus of the January Behind the Glass Lecture, given by Erinn Batykefer and Laura Damon-Moore, co-creators of the Library as Incubator Project and co-authors of The Artist’s Library. Both are designed to bring together artists and libraries in creative partnerships. Be sure to join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 8, in the Auditorium, or live stream the lecture on our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST.
The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.