It’s a very exciting time to be a flameworking artist!
The process of flameworking involves the use of a focused flame to soften and shape glass, and this segment of the glass art world is seeing a massive surge in popularity and innovation. A big reason for the acceleration of this aspect of the glass world is the growing acceptance and adoration for glass pipes that are intended for cannabis consumption. In January 2022, The Corning Museum of Glass took a big leap forward in inspiring the world to see this craft in a new and even greater light.
The Museum hosted three of the more renowned artists in this field for a week-long Guest Artist engagement in which an elaborate sculpture that also functions as a water pipe was created. Dan Coyle…aka @CoyleCondenser, Adam Whobrey…aka @Hoobsglass, and Ryan O’Keefe…aka @sdryno have developed strong reputations in the field of pipemaking for their own individual works, and they have also produced a number of outstanding collaborative works together and with other artists. Their work has received much acclaim within the flameworking and pipe communities, but it’s rare for the public to have an opportunity to witness this level of work. So, we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to facilitate such an engagement.
When the three artists arrived, they had already done a great deal of preparation. Hoobs and Ryno live in California and had connected the week before traveling to Corning to prepare a design sketch and a whole bunch of the colored glass they would need. Coyle, who hails from Massachusetts, spent the week before the Guest Artist engagement teaching a class at The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass. He was able to accomplish a bit of preparation during his class. Ultimately, we estimated that with their prep work and then the work they accomplished here on-site, nearly 200 working hours went into the final piece.
Collaboration can be a tricky thing. It can be hard for a group of artists to agree on design decisions. Putting dozens of hours of focus into an object with other artists requires a great deal of trust and respect. And it can be difficult to represent the different artists’ voices through a single object. When Coyle and I began discussions on the idea of a collaborative project for this engagement, he was quite insistent that Hoobs and Ryno would be his ideal partners in the effort. While all three are very talented in all aspects of flameworking, they do have some specific expertise for certain niches of the craft.
Coyle has a reputation for using a creative take on monkeys within his work. He also began his glass career as a scientific glassblower, producing labware for scientific research, so he is particularly adept with the elaborate hollow work involved in making the piece function as a water pipe. Ryno is an excellent sculptor in both solid and hollow forms, and he has developed a very popular body of work around the iconic rubber ducky. Hoobs has cultivated a system for creating elaborate, large-scale constructions by building skeletal structures with rods of glass, and then he fills the negative spaces of the structures with flat panels of glass.
The final piece they created, entitled D-XG 2052 brilliantly blends the technical talents and artistic voices of these three wonderful artists seamlessly. The overall form, color scheme, and many of the smaller details reference Ryno’s influence of the rubber ducky. Piloting the mechanoid ducky is a brilliantly detailed monkey, complete with a radio headset and UV reactive glass goggles that tie in references to Coyle’s voice. Finally, the whole piece is constructed in the fashion of skeletal rod and panel structures that are exemplary of the approach that Hoobs takes for large-scale flameworked sculpture.
D-XG 2052 presented many technical challenges to the artists during its development and fabrication, but one of the most important considerations throughout the process is thermal shock causing the piece to break. When glass is heated, it swells a little bit, and it contracts as it cools. If a piece of glass is heated or cooled too unevenly or quickly, different areas can expand and contract at such different rates that they pull apart and crack. One lapse in judgment of temperature or one errant flame hitting a cooler part of the sculpture and the whole piece could break, destroying hours of work. This team of artists did a masterful job of managing temperature concerns throughout the week. There were never any backward steps in the process.
The prospect of getting a rare public view of this complex style of work drew a nice crowd of flameworkers and pipe enthusiasts from around the region and across the country. A portion of this engagement was livestreamed on The Corning Museum of Glass YouTube channel, and the edited video now lives there in perpetuity (see below).
It’s so nice to know this historic Guest Artist engagement will live on, not only through the finished object but also through the viewing and sharing of video footage. This has been another important step in our mission to inspire the world to see glass in a new light and to shine new light into the diverse corners of the glass art world.