|Glass is an ancient substance that dates back some 5,000 years. Believed to have been developed in the mid-first century B.C. in Syria as a glassworking technique, free-form glassblowing forever transformed glass production. Several centuries ago, owning glass - a rare and precious commodity - was the privilege of wealth and royalty. Knowledge of how to make and work glass was a carefully guarded secret controlled by royalty and specialized trade guilds.
The sparkling brightness of glass, as well as its many uses, comes from its rather peculiar properties. Its base is pure silica sand. Silica sand is composed of the mineral quartz, a compound of the elements silicon and oxygen. Soda ash and lime or potash and lime are added to the sand. These act as fluxing agents - that is, they cause the materials to fuse (melt) at temperatures of about 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.
The studio glass movement in the late 20th century has stimulated a fresh look at this ancient substance. Studio glass is a term that refers to one-of-a-kind works. Though not yet four decades old, the movement has already gifted us with a stunning array of artistic creativity. Its role as a medium for art is now firmly and fully established.
The studio glass movement is just one in the broader international craft movement that has flourished since the 1960's. In 1962 the Toledo Museum of Art - renowned for its historical glass collection - hosted two glass workshops. These two landmark workshops boosted the studio glass movement in the United States.
The evolution of the studio glass movement was fostered largely by studio art programs in major universities, art schools, and specialized workshops. Teaching institutions and art schools were vital in developing studio glass as a legitimate art. Further legitimizing studio glass were the development of museum collections, glass galleries, private and corporate collectors, the rise of organizations such as the Glass Art Society, the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, and the Creative Glass Center of America. The Pilchuck Glass School located in Stanwood, Washington, was founded in 1971. It has been influential in promoting studio glass and shaping the character of the movement.
More than any other feature, exceptional richness and diversity characterize the studio glass movement. For the past three years studio glass has been the number one collected art in the country.