PAGE 1 My Dad was a union organizer and worked with a team. Maybe my knack for teamwork came from him? Ever since I went to college I’ve been working with a team. First with architecture and interior design and then glass. My studying in Murano in 1967 and 1968 taught me how a team in glass really functions but I had already been working with a small team in graduate school. Glassblowing is not an easy craft to do by yourself—it’s much easier with an assistant or a team.
PAGE 2 My first assistant or partner was Fritz Dreisbach when I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. I was trying to blow a form that I couldn’t make by myself and I asked Fritz to pick up a blowpipe and blow another piece for me and then add it to my piece. After that experiment went well I started designing sculptures that need[ed] two parts blown separately. This happened a month or two after I arrived at Harvey Littleton’s glass program
PAGE 3 in Madison. From that time on I did mostly sculptures and lost interest in functional work. My best friends in Madison were graduate students from the painting department—Michael Lawson, Andy Krance and Abe Rothblatt—we were kind of a team—helping each other with our art works. I wanted to be around more artists so next year I went to the Rhode Island School of Design. They didn’t have a glass program
PAGE 4 but they had almost everything else. I applied for a Fulbright grant for the next year. I wrote to all 200 glass factories in Italy asking if I could study with them if I got the grant. Only one factory, the famous Venini, probably the most progressive of the Italian factories, sent a reply saying I could visit for three weeks. When I arrived at Venini I met the Director Ludovico de Santillana. We became good friends
PAGE 5 and Ludovico was like a Father to me. He had me make models for the factory out of glass, plastic, and neon. I had the full run of the factory and access to the glassblowing teams to make whatever I needed for the models. The teams were made up of anywhere from three to six glassblowers. The more complicated the glass piece, the more men on the team. I learned to understand this very well, and over the years I had as many as eighteen
PAGE 6 glassblowers on one team. The more skilled you were, the higher up you were on the team. The hierarchy was not a question of your age or how long you’d been blowing glass—it was strictly a matter of expertise. You could be as young as sixteen or eighteen and be master or head of the team if you had the talent. Sometimes it seemed like they were born with the knowledge. Up until the 20th century you couldn’t be a master unless your father was a master. Lino Tagliapietra and Pino
PAGE 7 Signoretto are two examples of masters who were put in charge of a team at a young age. Before I returned to the States I was asked to build a glass program for the Rhode Island School of Design. During the early part of my teaching career there were three great artists that I collaborated with—Jamie Carpenter, Seaver Leslie, and Italo Scanga. We all became close friends and supported and helped each other for years. Italo became a mentor and my best friend till he died in 2001. In 1971 friends and I started the Pilchuck
PAGE 8 Glass School in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. By this time there were several schools teaching glassblowing, but only Pilchuck taught students to work in teams. It opened many more possibilities for everyone. We soon started inviting visiting faculty, artists, and master glassblowers from the great glass centers of the world. Of course they all worked in teams and the teams would be made up from students or faculty from Pilchuck.
PAGE 9 So many of the skills we have in the States came from these great masters—they were willing and did show us everything they knew. I think in some ways it was easier to pass their secrets to us than to the young glassblowers of Murano. We wanted it more and appreciated every little trick they would show us.
I started the Blanket Cylinders in 1974 at Pilchuck and worked on them later at the Rhode Island School of Design. I couldn’t afford to hire a team
PAGE 10 so I used five or six of my students as a team along with Kate Elliott to do the glass drawings and later Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick. I would meet the team at 4 am in the glass shop and we would work until 9 am, at which time I would turn the shop over to the students and they would work until midnight—later if the guards didn’t kick them out. I don’t know what kind of arrangement
PAGE 11Therman Statom had with the guards, but he could always work through the night. Because he worked hard, he became an excellent glassblower.
After the Blanket Cylinders I started the Pilchuck Baskets after discovering a wonderful stash of Northwest Coast baskets in the back of the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma, my hometown.
That summer I was picked up at the airport at midnight by Billy Morris. Billy had been hired by Pilchuck
PAGE 12 as a driver. He had a little glassblowing experience and started to ask me about teamwork. He knew I worked in a big team and hoped I might put him on somewhere. I told him I was starting at 4 am, 4 hours from then, and if he were there I’d put him on the team. He was there at 4 am and never missed a day on the pad for twelve years. Billy told me to never pay him, and that the first day I paid him would be the last day he worked for me.
PAGE 13 I never did pay Billy and in 1986 he went out on his own—he became one of the great glassblowers of the world. Some of the artists that I worked with at R.I.S.D. went on to have wonderful careers—Hank Adams, Harry Anderson, Jeffrey Beers, Howard Ben Tré, Martin Blank, Jamie Carpenter, Dan Dailey, Kate Elliott, Michael Glancy, James Harmon, Erik Hopkins, Roni Horn, Larry Jasse, Lee Koveleski, Seaver Leslie, Flora Mace, Mark McDonnell,
PAGE 14 Robbie Miller, Ben Moore, Pike Powers, Richard Royal, Ed Mcllvane, Chris Salmon, Michael Scheiner, Paul Seide, Therman Statom, Ann Wählstrom, Steve Weinberg, Toots Zynsky, Joey Kirkpatrick.
In 1980 the sales of my work matched my salary as a professor—$18,000. I quit teaching and moved back to Seattle to spend full time on my art work. In 1985 I could finally buy my own studio—the Buffalo Bldg.
PAGE 15 Soon after I built a hotshop down the street. Martin Blank played a very important role on the team. He was multitalented and I asked him to build the hotshop and run the team. It was a small shop and we had a team of five or six.
In 1988 I started the Venetian series with Lino in the little hotshop. Ben Moore played an important role on the Venetian team including translator.
PAGE 16 Pino Signoretto came to Pilchuck for the first time in 1989. I did a demo that summer and had Pino make some putti and attach them to large vases that Lino was blowing—that was the beginning of the Putti series. I’ve made about 15 series of work over the last 30 years with teams of two to eighteen. I want to thank each and every one of you for giving so much and making such great contributions to my work. None of it would have been possible without you.