When they met at the University of Vermont in the 1980s, Jim Rideout and Diane Murray had no way of knowing that glass artistry and the glass industry would become a fixture in their lives.
In 1985, following years of education and courtship, Jim and Diane, both mechanical engineers, were recruited by Corning Incorporated. Holding various positions in Corning, NY, the pair embraced the Corning glass community. After meeting The Studio’s co-founder Amy Schwartz by chance in a pediatrician’s office when their children were in infancy, Diane and Jim became friends with Amy and her husband, The Studio’s Resident Advisor William (Bill) Gudenrath.
Taking classes at The Studio when possible, Jim’s interest in glassblowing led him to study at the furnace with Bill Gudenrath and Harry Seaman, senior facility manager at The Studio. Meanwhile, classes in beadmaking and fusing were a natural extension of Diane’s silversmithing hobby. “Taking classes in beadmaking with Shinobu Kurosawa and Kristina Logan led me to embrace glass beadmaking as a craft. Emilio Santini is also an inspiration, but my work is not figurative,” said Diane.
“We have always been creative and interested in craft hobbies,” said Jim. “Seeing The Studio being built over the years, taking classes, and developing a love of the glass collections inspired us to become involved with Ennion,” the couple says. Supporting The Studio through Ennion membership, Diane and Jim attribute The Studio’s commitment to “investing in artists [and] young people and allowing them to fall in love with glass” as their most significant reason for their longstanding support. “Financial aid opportunities make glass accessible, and that’s why we have supported scholarships in the past,” added Jim.
When Jim’s career with Corning Incorporated took their family to Tokyo for three years, Jim used the experience to continue developing his glass skills and craftsmanship. Taking three trains to study at a glass studio, he honed his glassblowing technique and built budding relationships with the Tokyo glass community.
Diane and Jim invited Amy and Bill to visit them, laying the groundwork for The Studio’s future connections with artists in Tokyo. During their visit, Bill led a master class at the studio where Jim was studying. The Studio’s connection to the Tokyo glass community began with an informal exchange that would eventually lead one of Jim’s fellow glass students of three years, artist Rui Sasaki, to become the recipient of the 33rd Rakow Commission with the creation of her work Liquid Sunshine/I am a Pluviophile.
*Above: Rui Sasaki and a close-up of her work Liquid Sunshine/I am a Pluviophile.
Upon returning from Tokyo, Jim and Diane, with their children in tow, found themselves in Hickory, NC, where Jim continued his work for Corning in optical communications until retiring in 2020.
Avid travelers, Jim and Diane have often planned their itineraries with glass in mind. “Every trip we take, we look for opportunities to experience glass,” explained Diane. Traveling to the world’s glass capitals—the Czech Republic and Venice, Italy, among many others––their family has enjoyed seeing firsthand the works of the great glass maestros and many studio artists. Should the evolving pandemic permit, the couple is looking forward to the opportunity to travel with fellow Ennion members on their first Ennion trip in 2022.
Jim and Diane have also passed on their love of glass and flameworking to the next generation on a more personal level. Their son Hunter Rideout has taken classes at The Studio and now enjoys beadmaking and crafting small sculptural objects at the lampworking bench in the family’s garage.