The Last Engraving: Max Erlacher, a memorial

Two months on from the unexpected passing of Max Erlacher, colleagues and dear friends at The Corning Museum of Glass have shared their thoughts and memories of working alongside the legendary glass engraver.

Max Erlacher

Born Roland “Max” Erlacher in Austria in 1933, Max began working with glass at a very early age. He entered a glass technical school in Kramsach, Austria, at the age of 14. It was only ten years later that Max, now certified as a Master Engraver by Lobmeyr, a glassware company in Vienna, Austria, arrived in Corning to begin working for Steuben Glass. Over the years, Max became one of the most renowned engravers at Steuben. He was a master of cold working techniques and copper, stone, and diamond engraving.

During the course of his celebrated career, he has engraved many one-of-a-kind pieces, including the Crusader Bowl bought by President and Mrs. Reagan as a wedding gift for Prince (now King) Charles and Lady Diana; a window for Cornell University’s Law school; and a portrait of Albert Einstein that is now in the Smithsonian, to name just a few.

Max made his home in the Corning area with his wife Kitty and was an active part of the Museum’s artist community. We’re so grateful that Max shared his passion for glass as a Fellow of the Museum, as a frequent instructor at The Studio, with his many collaborations with other artists, and by sharing engraving techniques through films and demonstrations presented at the Museum over many years.

To the people of Corning and the wider, global glass community, he was a true pillar of glassmaking craft. Max will be fondly remembered by those that knew him well, worked with him or saw him at work, and those that own a piece of his exquisite craftsmanship. The Corning Museum of Glass is deeply saddened by this loss and sends its sincere condolences to Max’s family and loved ones.

Max with some of his students at The Studio, 2011.

Steve Bender, senior business manager, Steuben

“Max’s passing marks the loss of a true legend in the glass community. His decades-long work as a master engraver for Steuben produced countless works of art. His passion for the copper wheel was evident each time he sat at the lathe. Always working, teaching, and expressing joy, Max will be fondly remembered and deeply missed. On behalf of Steuben, our heartfelt condolences go out to Max’s wife, Kitty, and the Erlacher family.”

Amy Schwartz, director, The Studio

“Max was beloved at The Studio. Not only did he share his engraving skills with our artists and students, but he also always enjoyed a good joke. He always had one for me and each day he was here I made sure to have one ready for him. I’ll miss him and all that he brought to our community.”

William Gudenrath, Resident Advisor, The Studio

“A deeply humble person, unfailingly charming, always funny and kind, in his presence it was SO easy to forget that Max Erlacher was a sovereign, world-class master in his field. As a wheel engraver of glass, he had the rock-solid skill equal to any historical artist—Gondelach, Lehmann, and so on. His ability to create the illusion of depth—to my eyes, the greatest challenge in intaglio glass illustration—was stunning…no, magical. Corning, New York, The Corning Museum of Glass, and all who knew and loved Max suffered a great loss this year. And while none of us is replaceable, as a professional, Max is utterly irreplaceable. Amy, Sophia, Owen, and I will always be grateful to have called him a friend.”

Left to right: Max with Jiří Harcuba, Amy Schwartz, and William Gudenrath at The Studio.

Susie Silbert, curator of postwar and contemporary art, Corning Museum of Glass

“Max Erlacher was a beating heart of the Corning community, treasured for his exceptional engraving skills and his friendly and open demeanor. His work made glass a more expressive medium and his personality made Corning a better place to be. We miss him already and are confident that the marks he’s made—in glass and in life—are enduring ones.”

Regan Brumagen, The Rakow Research Library

“Max was a great friend to the Rakow Library, generously sharing his stories and experiences in several recorded interviews, which we are truly grateful to have. He was generous, as well, in sharing his engraving knowledge with others, especially those new to the field.  I remember the excitement one student had at being able to talk to Max about an old lathe she had just bought. She couldn’t believe that someone of his stature was willing to answer her questions!”

Harry Seaman, senior facility manager, The Studio

“I was always excited for Max to teach at The Studio. Not only would he show up and translate decades of engraving mastery into bite-size concepts and exercises for even the most inexperienced student, but he always had a new joke to tell anyone who stopped by the classroom.”

Max Erlacher, 1933-2022

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