The Glass Art Society (GAS), a glass organization formed in the 1960’s – originally made up of all glassblowers – puts on an annual conference that rotates through cities in America and abroad. This year, the 44th annual conference was held in San Jose, which is always a fun city for me to go visit on any pretext because my brother happens to live there and I can usually fit in a visit with him and his family while I’m in town. So, even though I’m not a huge fan of conventions, I thought it would be a good idea to attend GAS 2015, especially since I’ve heard from other glass artists how much fun it can be. (And, yes, I did get in a weekend and a few dinners with my brother and his family, so it was quite a bit of fun on that front as well.)
GAS has a strong affiliation with The Corning Museum of Glass, who brought their mobile hot shop to the event. They set up the hot shop for GAS 2015 in the park outside of the main conference hotel and arranged for stadium seating to allow large groups of people to watch glass blowing demonstrations by various famous artists. It was a real kick to watch as several well-known artists whose wonderful art glass pieces I’ve seen in galleries demonstrated glassblowing and talked us through their processes as they went along. Each of them finished really wonderful new pieces on the spot while we watched and learned from them.
GAS 2015 also co-opted The Tech Museum of Innovation for a flameworking (or torchworking) venue. There was a good sized seating area in front of a working area set up with the oxygen and natural gas lines for each demonstrating artist to hook up to. I was able to fit in a demonstration by glass artist Bandhu Dunham (shown in the photo on the right), who creates many works of glass art, the most amazing of which are his kinetic glass sculptures. I admire his engineering talents and how he has applied those talents to create these marvelous working pieces of kinetic art out of glass. A closeup of one of the kinetic components he uses to create his kinetic glass art, which he made during his demonstration, is shown on the left. His mad scientist mind really inspires me! 🙂
For GAS 2015, there were tracks on coldworking, flameworking, hot glass (glassblowing), kiln-formed glass (fused glass), “green” glass (eco-friendly glass ideas), and a panel on at-risk youth education, as well as the usual special events, tours, award presentations and lectures. Every time slot had at least one something that I wanted to attend, and there were often two or three fighting for which ultimately got my attention. It was a mad whirlwind of getting from one venue to another in time for the next gulp of information or inspiration, because the venues were spread out over several miles in the heart of San Jose. While it was incredibly inspiring, it was also very overwhelming, as it felt like I was drinking from a fire hose for those three days of the conference.
While I am very grateful to GAS for holding the GAS 2015 conference, for a first timer it truly was overwhelming and intimidating. So many of the people already knew each other that it would have felt isolating if so many of the glass artists weren’t outgoing to the newbies like me. Many of them went out of their way to include me in conversations or talk with me about the conference as we moved from one venue to another. Now that I know what I’m in for and I really get that there is no way to see everything, so I may as well just relax and choose what speaks most to my inner glass artist, I’m looking forward to next year’s conference in Corning, New York.
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