CELEBRATING 25: From Small Ideas to Big Dreams, Hot Glass Demos Have Changed the Game!

This is part two of our three-part blog series celebrating 25 years of hot glass demonstrations at the Museum. In this blog, we’ll meet some of the current members of the Hot Glass Team and learn how hot glass demonstrations have expanded over the years, and in the process changed them as people as well.

Eric Meek, Sr. Manager of Hot Glass Programs, hired in March 2005
“I think the most impactful way we’ve expanded is when we take glassblowing out of the Museum and the expected environment here and share our work with new communities. For example, the work that we’ve done on the Celebrity Cruise ships and Mobile Hot Shop. It’s not just having the idea, it’s building a team of people who are capable and enthusiastic, and have the attitude to go for it. Everyone on our team is a good glassmaker, but there’s no one who relates the process better than we do. No one puts as much effort as we do into sharing information with our audiences.”

The CMoG Mobile Hot Shop set up in front of the Imagine Museum.
The Mobile Hot Shop set up in front of the Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Jeff Mack, Manager of Hot Glass Programs & Projects, hired in November 2015
“I think the reason we’ve expanded so successfully is our creative leadership and the ideas that guide the things we do. Some of the ideas seemed zany—like the idea of the ships. I think that program was one of the most important projects our team has ever done. A lot of glassblowing careers were catapulted by that experience: the professionalism they gained by working for the program and the experience of working around people all the time and perfecting their craft so audiences could learn from it, really kicked off a lot of successful careers. I don’t think there have ever been opportunities like that for glassmakers before this and we continue to reap the benefits today.”

Catherine Ayers, Hot Glass Demonstrator, first hired in December 2011
“I still can’t believe we took our show from Corning, NY, to the world—we made the world our stage, and it’s an amazing thing to have happened. I think that’s incredible. We went from a 12-foot balcony stage to the world, and beyond. Growing up here, I have great pride in the area, so it’s nice to be able to share the place I grew up in, and be so proud of what it’s contributed to the world and the innovation of glass, and to share the art of glassblowing.”

Hot Glass Show Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Glassblowers demonstrated to audiences around the world thanks to our partnership with Celebrity Cruises.

Eric Goldschmidt, Flameworking and Properties of Glass Supervisor, first hired in March 2003
“We have covered almost the entire planet at this point, with hot glass demonstrations. For an institution whose mission is to show the world glass in a new light, I don’t think you can be any more effective than that. We have literally blown glass all around the world, be it on ships or land. We’ve shared this fascinating craft so effectively for 25 years now. It’s an incredible effort to be part of—to know we’re so significantly affecting our mission and getting glass out there to people so that they understand it that much better.

Caitlin Hyde performs a flameworking demonstration.
Caitlin performs a demonstration in the old Flameworking booth.

Caitlin Hyde, Properties of Glass Demonstrator, hired in June 2011
“The flameworking team has broadened the range of our presentations to include conversations about science, technology, and the history of glass, as well as the art and craft of glass. In recent years, we have developed a number of presentations to specifically reflect and support the Museum’s special exhibitions. When not demonstrating, we take opportunities for in-depth conversations with guests about their experiences in the Museum and questions they have about glass art and science.”

Chris Rochelle, Hot Glass Projects Team Leader, hired in March 2010
“In 2006, I started out working on the Steuben floor and you could look right up and see the balcony stage and hear the applause when a piece was finished. Every step of the way since then has been amazing. Seeing our team and the program grow and expand, seeing our team diversify and adapt to everything that’s come our way, it’s been really awesome to see. I’ve traveled so much with the Museum on the cruise ship, with GlassLab, and with other outreach programs—I’ve gone all over the world. That’s the heart of the matter for me—reaching a global audience and sharing the history and culture of our Museum. But I love talking with the audience, too. You get to connect them with the material in a way that wasn’t possible when I started with Steuben—you’re giving them the inside scoop as something is being done. A lot of it was unforeseen for me—the passion I would develop as an educator about glassmaking, as well as a glassmaker. So it’s tying those two things together in a live demonstration, and that’s been really rewarding.”

Tom Ryder, Technician Demonstrator, first hired in January 2011
“There have always been a couple of serious dreamers in charge of our outreach programs—the mobile studios, the cruise ships, etc. Getting out there in the world and showing people what we can do is really cool. Even with GlassBarge in 2018, a thousand people every day showed up to see us in New York City—that stuff is really cool! Getting out and about seems like the main growth. Lots of people come to the Museum, but we grow our numbers when people see us out in the world and bringing glass into situations where you wouldn’t think there’d be a glass studio.”

Two glassmakers make glass in front of an audience on GlassBarge.
Glassmakers during a GlassBarge demo along the Hudson River in 2018.

Helen Tegeler, Hot Glass Demonstrator, first hired in January 2011
“I get really excited about special programs we do at the Museum, like You Design It; We Make It—the creativity of children shows no limits, so it’s fun to tap into that. Also the visiting artist residencies and special demonstrations and all the livestreams we’ve done—we’ve been able to create so much content that ties in exciting things and we have influenced so many young glassmakers and glass enthusiasts because of what they saw on the screen. Other museums are upping their game on how they’re doing demonstrations and how they’re presenting glassblowing to the public. Our museum has set the standard for what it means to present glassmaking to the public and not just be a passive activity that people watch, it’s an activity they can engage with and remember.”

George Kennard, Hot Glass Programs and Mobile Hot Shop Team Leader, hired in July 2001
“The most significant way we’ve expanded is to go from the old Steuben shop and doing the demonstrations on a very small stage, to now being here in the Amphitheater Hot Shop. It’s the same place but with a much bigger stage and a huge audience, that’s the craziest thing in my mind. It’s funny because I’ve been making glass my whole career. I had a career in production glassmaking before I came to the Museum, but what I do now is not the same. It’s totally different doing demos in front of a live audience. It’s a pretty special feeling. Every day, I look forward to coming to work—it’s a special place. I love it here. I hope the next 25 years are just as packed with exciting stuff.”

The crowd looks on as the Hot Glass Demo Team gives the first demonstration on the Amphitheater Hot Shop Stage
The Amphitheater Hot Shop can host large audiences for demonstrations and special events.

We’ll hear from our glassblowers one more time as they recall their favorite memories from the past 25 years, so look out for the next blog post in the series and help us finish this anniversary year—coincidentally, the UN-designated International Year of Glass—on a high note.

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