A Love Letter to the Pilchuck Glass School and Passion

Pilchuck Glass School

Yesterday I got to visit one of my all time favorite places, the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. It really is a marvel of art merging with nature, brilliant community design, and a hot bed of creative collisions.

The visit was especially auspicious because a majority of the artists featured in the Painted in the Desert movie, including my father Dick Weiss, were there for the 11th anniversary of their first Hauberg Fellowship. Here is a link to all of the artists included in the fellowship, with six of the seven featured in the film. http://www.pilchuck.com/residencies/hauberg_v2012.aspx

Paul Marioni inspecting Mean Mountain

A little background on the groundbreaking and innovative art school:

Founded in 1971 by Dale Chihuly, Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg (1916-2002), Pilchuck Glass School is an international center for glass art education. The name “Pilchuck” comes from the local Native American language and translates to “red river”. Located on a former tree farm near Stanwood, Washington, Pilchuck sponsors one, two and three-week classes each summer in a broad spectrum of glass techniques as well as residencies for emerging and established artists working in all media.

My father Dick Weiss showing some of his WD40+ monotype prints he and Walt Lieberman created.

The Hauberg Fellowship is named for Pilchuck co-founder John H. Hauberg (1916–2002)—philanthropist, art collector, and important patron of artists—the fellowship was established to encourage collaboration among a group of outstanding artists.

My father Dick Weiss working on glass.

It is one of my favorite places because it is a crossroads between the natural environment and communal creation. The property is made up of thick woods, expansive fields and panoramic vistas. The architectural planning  is astonishing, with delicious little cedar planked cabins tucked in the woods, and tons of passionate people creating art.

Pole turners in the hot shop.

I went 11 hours straight once monotype printing with my father and Walt Lieberman in the print studio with its glorious view of Puget Sound. We would walk out the french doors to weathered picnic tables dremeling on our next printing plate; pure heaven. As a child I remember the freedom I felt at this oasis in the wilderness, the adults were more relaxed and delighted {alcohol?}, the land was cleansing and calm, and people had found their tribe. I have no doubt I am looking at it all with rose-colored glasses, but I like it that way, so lets continue with the love fest.

A little cultural context: glass art is a really big deal in the Northwest. The fates conspired to make this misty backwoods the center of the burgeoning studio glass movement that has  become world-renowned. Emerging fifty years ago with the creation of small-scale furnaces that allowed free-form experimentation, this rediscovered medium has captured the hearts and souls of some dedicated and brave individuals. Before the early 1960s glass work was relegated to factory production and secretive apprenticeships in European studios.

The gorgeous lodge.

When Americans got a hold of it during the radical upheavals of the 60s all the rules were thrown out the window. {To be fair, I don’t think most of them knew the rules. Some of them did go apprentice to the cloistered European masters, but most did not}.  The naivety most approached it with was a profound gift, allowing the ancient substance to be worked in ways an accomplished technician would never have considered. It is a great blessing to come to any process fresh and untrained, because that is where you can step out of predetermined ideas and lets it rip.

Preston Singletary’s collaborative Totem pole.

Artist who work with glass also have to be a little insane. It is so fragile, fickle, dangerous, fluid and primal. As seasoned glass tamer Paul Marioni said last night, you may do a process 99 times, and the 100th time, with all the {seemingly} same elements, the piece cracks.

Paul Marioni with Mean Mountain sketch.

I think part of its allure is the luminous potential mixed with the challenge. Its like inviting the gods down to earth to dance, harnessing their willy and shape-shifting ways, and out of this seduction producing something of aching, translucent beauty. You can see the wildness in some of the blowers eyes. They seem to be the most carnal, willing the fates as they make one more swoop around the dance floor, one more reheat of that exquisite bubble with grand potential.

Its funny, as I write this you would think I was a glass blower. But I am not. I am just deeply affected by any group of people who are  passionate about processes or experiences that bring them alive. It’s really spiritual communion from my perspective, the merging of the human will with the mojo of the gods. That moment when we step between the worlds and allow ourselves to channel something beyond us into form. Its my personal drug, like my groovy new purple friend Larissa said about dancing, any place that brings you back into your body and into the rivers of universal joy. The Western culture is so lost and detached at this time, that it becomes a political act to claim your bliss. So how are you going to push your boundaries today and start that project, class or medium you have been dreaming of but make so many excuses about why it’s relegated to the bottom of the pile?

Paul modeling loving what you do!

Go get um, its 2012, and its time to recreate a world from our delightful depths. Much love, and may you find the places, people and things that bring your inner light out for the rest of us. I am doing my best over here. xxxx Mellissae

Yes, the wee ones are there too.

  3 comments for “A Love Letter to the Pilchuck Glass School and Passion

  1. fritz
    May 20, 2012 at 3:11 am

    very beautiful Mellissae, nece prose too!! thanks, fritz

    Like

    • mwsteele
      May 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      Thanks Fritz. It was such a treat to see you after so long. Some years ago Dick let me pick some pieces from his collection, and one of the first ones I wanted was a GLORIOUS yellow Mongo, that if I remember correctly, may have been on a fence post at Dick Marquis’s house. LOVE it, and your car. Look forward to the next time we bump into each other, M

      Like

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