Editor's note: Last year, Gulfport artists organized and hosted a home studio tour, ArtJones. Over the course of one weekend, anyone interested in seeing how artists work could walk, bike or drive to home studios featuring Gulfport's working artists. These artists may or may not be well-known locally, but they're all working artists. Up until this article, this series has focused on the work from artists you can see at this year's ArtJones. This final piece, however, we're publishing posthumously; glassblower Owen Pach died earlier this year. Before he did, he wrote this:
My current focus and dedication is to TD Glass, the support facility for the recently opened Imagine Museum. The Imagine Museum is dedicated to the history of the American Glass Movement and the future of studio glass around the world. This museum is not only a gift to this region, but a jewel to the world. My current charge is to design and develop a world-class glassblowing and glass casting studio to support the museum.
Although I started blowing glass in 1985, my career really began in 1988 when I received my first of nine teaching assistant-ships at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. During that first session I met Richard Ritter, and later did a two-year apprenticeship with him. I have also been blessed to have taught, or worked with, many world-renowned masters.
It would be remiss not to mention Chuck Boux, at Sigma Studio, for his influence in the Tampa Bay area. Chuck has provided Hot Glass access consistently for over three decades. Many of us have rented time from Chuck through the years. I credit Sigma Studio for getting my career off the ground in a big way.
The American Glass Movement came to Ybor City in 1984. Dean James took a fall concentration with Fritz Dreisbach, a pioneer of the movement, spending four weeks learning to blow glass and four weeks building equipment. James returned to Ybor City and built the first hot glass studio in the region, thus, the Studio Glass Movement was established in West Central Florida. Among the first students who reside and work in the bay area today are Duncan McClellan, Susan Gott and Pauli Mayville.
The secondary source of the movement was established by retired glass factory masters. One example was Jerry Vandermark, retired from the Carl Erickson factory. Vandemark taught Doug Merritt, now a Gulfport resident, who recently retired his studio after more than 40 years.
After the success of the first hot glass workshop, Littleton went back to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, dropped ceramics and built the first academic glass program. Two of the first graduates were Dale Chihuly, who established the glass program at Rhode Island School of Design, and Joel Philip Meyers, who established the program at University of California, Berkeley. Hot glass programs began to spider the country and were the primary source of the America Glass Movement.
The American Glass Movement began at the Toledo Museum, Ohio, in 1963. At the time Harvey Littleton was teaching ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and on occasion at the Toledo Museum. Littleton approached the museum about starting a hot glass workshop and they gave their blessing and support. Nothing like this had ever been attempted before in America. Harvey built the furnace and called in his friend, Dominick Labino, a retired combustion engineer, to get the furnace up and running. Now they had hot glass, but knew very little about how to use it. Another friend, Harvey Leafgreen, a retired master glassblower from Libbey Glass, was brought in to teach. Thus, the first studio hot glass session was held, and the American Glass Movement was born.
ArtJones is an annual open studio tour of Gulfport’s professional arts community. 2018 dates are Saturday and Sunday, December 1-2. This series features the musings of ArtJones artists. Never miss a local art show — sign up for Creative Loafing's weekly Do This newsletter.