The following is an open letter written by world renowned glass artist Paul Stankard. Considered the father of modern glass paperweights, he began his career with a degree in Scientific Glassblowing. For the first ten years of his work career, he worked as a glassblower making scientific instruments for various chemical laboratories. With a driving desire to “be on the creative side“, Stankard started producing glass paperweights in his garage while working in industry to support his growing family. It wasn’t until people mistakenly thought that he had found a way to encase actual flowers in glass that consumers started to notice him and paperweight makers started following his lead. Stankard, who is now an internationally acclaimed artist, is largely credited with changing the status of glass paperweights from that of “craft” to that of “fine art”. Among many other museums, Stankard’s work is exhibited at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France; the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England; and The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York City, NY.
The Real Crime – By Paul Stankard
Over the last 50 years I’ve witnessed the Lampworking community grow beyond the service of science to become the most popular hot glass working process and challenging thousands of creative people around the world. One interesting fact is this economically accessible craft is attracting large numbers of hip, counter-culture non-conformists who are experiencing creativity in glass producing glass pipes. This lampworked glass paraphernalia is made in garages, basements, small sheds and elaborately equipped studio’s across the country and spreading throughout the free world.
“Simpson-Lock – Pipe By Josh Ford Murrine by Malachi Wilkinson (2012)”
Nourished primarily by an outsider pop-subculture this billion dollar activity is producing products that are made, displayed, bought, and sold under the legal radar screen available to upwards of 50 million smokers. Conservative estimates suggest as many as 15 thousand people are lampworking paraphernalia for smoking marijuana. The artists within the glass pipe making community are expanding the flameworking parameters, and as a group are difficult to categorize beyond outsider art steeped in a pop culture with a lively subculture. These artist’s in the upper echelon of what I’ve heard referred to as, the Boro Functional Art Community, evidence mastery of skills responsible for creating ambitious glass water pipes as art.
“Dryad – By Gemini Andy (2012)
These highly decorated works have set new standards for excellence within the flameworking community. I’m amazed at the level of complexity and attractiveness achieved by these mostly publicity shy young people. When I think back to industry and what I was fabricating at the torch for research scientists, it’s amazing how extraordinary the functional glass pipes are compared to scientific glass apparatus. I would think the best of these flameworked sculptures are being displayed in collections, while the more utilitarian production glass pieces are being used at home. What makes this segment of glass art community distorted is that it’s illegal to produce, distribute, and use drug paraphernalia. I don’t believe it’s a crime to smoke pot, but I do believe it’s a crime to allow these gifted men and women working in hot glass to be shunned from the glass art community.
We would like to thank Mr. Stankard for his empowering attitude and for sharing his opinions with the entire community. We also hope this inspires you all as much as it has inspired us, be sure to keep supporting your local artists!