Kindling a Passion for Glass: My Week at The Studio

In my role at the Museum, I have been lucky enough to get a glimpse of our week-long classes at The Studio by photographing them. I flit from class to class, usually spending a half-hour in each one. I called these moments my little amuse-bouches of glassmaking: just little teasers that made me interested in exploring glassmaking in depth for myself by taking a weeklong class.

Amanda Crans, Social Media and Photography Specialist

Thanks to Amy Schwartz, director of The Studio, I recently got to take Denise Stillwaggon Leone’s class Luminous Graphics, which explored the variety of ways one can apply photographic images to glass. As a photographer myself, this class was the perfect option for my first weeklong experience! Journey with me through this blog post to see what a week-long class at The Studio is like.

The night before classes officially began, I was invited to an introductory dinner at the Museum for all instructors, students, teaching assistants, and some Studio staff. It was a great chance to meet new people and reunite with my friend, Rita-Marie Geary, who would take Denise’s class with me.


Day 1: Monday

The doors of The Studio unlocked promptly at 8 am and I dropped my supplies off in the workroom before settling into The Studio Lecture Room for orientation. After orientation, we met in our classroom and I was excited when I realized I already knew all the students in my class! Our first project was to stageblast a piece of float glass. By sandblasting two different layers in the glass, you can achieve shading without adding any enamels. I learned that I needed to sandblast for a lot longer to cut as deeply as I wanted—a lesson I needed continuous reminders of throughout the week. Lunch was brought in every day, which made it super easy to focus on what I was learning without needing to schlep across campus to grab food.

After the Museum closed, students from all the classes this session took a private tour of our 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries with William (Bill) Gudenrath AND our Contemporary Art + Design Galleries with Richard Whiteley. I’ve toured the Museum a hundred times, but it’s always an incredible experience to hear different perspectives, especially from people as knowledgeable and talented as Bill and Richard. Before this tour, I had never considered what a gift it is to walk into a place like The Studio and just start making glass without any technical or engineering background! Until the 1990s, most glassmakers had to build their own equipment; Richard recalled one kiln made from a refrigerator that used a soda can filled with sand to control the temperature. At The Studio nowadays, any technical problems I had could be solved by Denise, our teaching assistant Scout, or one of The Studio technicians.

William Gudenrath in front of the Venetian glass displays.

Day 2: Tuesday

Tuesday kicked off with a lecture on public speaking by Scott Ignaszewski from the Museum’s Events department. This was helpful preparation for those teachers, teaching assistants, and students presenting their work that week. The rest of the day was such a blur working on projects and my body was so sore by 5 pm that I went home before the teacher presentations—my one regret of the week. But I was also glad that the schedule was flexible enough that I could go to activities based on how I was feeling.

Day 3: Wednesday

We began work on our main project: a 6 by 8 by 1-inch glass block that was composed of eight different layers of glass fused together. With photo sandblasting, powdered glass, and enamels, there were so many options for this project that I honestly got overwhelmed! I popped over to the Museum for a quick jaunt around the galleries and when I returned, feeling rejuvenated and ready to go, I set out to create a dimensional forest scene using paper stencils and powdered glass. Once my layers were powdered, I put them in the kiln so the powder and the Bullseye glass could fuse overnight.

We congregated in The Studio Lecture Room again after dinner; this time to hear from any teaching assistants and students who volunteered to share their work. I was so inspired by the work of my fellow students, and it was amazing to hear their stories. For many students, The Studio is one of the places where they feel at home and feel supported.

Day 4: Thursday

One of the most beautiful things about learning at The Studio was the spirit of collaboration and creativity between classes! Thursday was collaboration day for me. I took a print my friend and fellow student Beth Anderson had made, and photo sandblasted it onto a sheet of flashed glass which is painted on one side so when you sandblast into it you get beautiful blue shading through your piece. Later, Bob from Rocko Belloso’s class wanted help sandblasting an image onto borosilicate so he could use it to lay down stringers to create the design on glass. By helping someone else, I felt like all the steps of the process were finally making sense to me.

Day 5: Friday

Studio students had a rare treat at the end of the week that even many Corning residents don’t get: we toured Corning Incorporated’s headquarters building to see the eleven monumental glass sculptures that are on display there. No photos are allowed inside the building, but I’ll never forget seeing a giant Libensky and Brychtova sculpture that seemed to defy gravity!

Day 6: Saturday

The last day of classes came sooner than expected! We enjoyed hot coffee, free donuts, and a demo from Bill Gudenrath at the beginning of the day. In just 45 minutes, Bill took us on a journey through glassmaking history from Roman bottles to the Venetian Veronese vase (say that five times fast). Bill never ceases to amaze me: his ability to work solo at the furnace is unparalleled. He even was marvering a piece of glass while waxing his jacks at the same time! The rest of the day was dedicated to finishing up projects and cleaning up. The biggest surprise of the week came when I discovered I love coldworking! I tidied the edges of my solid glass block and found the change in sound as you increase the grit on your polishing wheels so satisfying. The cold shop has windows looking in and Richard Whiteley happened to walk by when I was coldworking. He offered to give me a couple of pointers, which I happily accepted because who wouldn’t want a world-famous coldworker to teach you?

I had a truly transformative week at The Studio! I’ve taken weekend classes before, but it was great to spend 40+ hours fully focused on the material. I also really enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow students and the chance to see the Museum I love in a new light. I’m already planning for future classes I want to take.

The finished block at home on my kitchen windowsill.

If you’ve ever wanted to dedicate time to learning glassmaking, a weeklong class at The Studio is the best possible opportunity.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: