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50th Anniversary of Contemporary Glass Key Information


50th Anniversary of Studio GlassStudio Glass Highlights Decade by Decade

By William Warmus and Beth Hylen


  • Emphasis on technology and education.
  • Experimental discovery of the material through trial and error.
  • Self-expression (not sales) most important.
  • Male-dominated.
  • Primarily hot (furnace) glass; some slumping plate glass, laminating pieces of blown forms, fusing, etc.
  • Few critics.
  • Emerging interest by museums: first big traveling exhibitions showcasing glass are organized.
  • Earliest galleries devoted to glass open.
  • Equipment: furnaces, tools, glass.
  • Long-standing techniques, such as the “fuming” and “feathering” popular during the Art Nouveau period, are continually reinvented and updated, even to this day.
  • Part of broader international craft movement of the 1960s in which clay, fiber, wood, and metal are used for creative expression.
  • Dichotomy exists between the sculptor in search of form (the “technique is cheap” attitude) vs. the craftsman striving to create a perfectly executed functional object.


  • Artists pursue narrative, political, gender issues.
  • More multimedia work, combining glass with other materials (wood, metal, paint, stone).
  • “Art vs. craft” debate pushes aside technical issues.
  • New interest in alternatives to hot glass: pâte de verre, lampworking, kilnworking, coldworking, even microwaved glass jewelry.
  • Women play increasingly prominent role.
  • Art museums begin to exhibit glass in contemporary art sections, not only in decorative arts galleries.
  • Move toward professionalism: artists concentrate on the business of running a studio and developing marketing strategies to create a stable livelihood.
  • Camaraderie of collectors and friendly competition for the most beautiful artworks leads to a relatively stable market and the development of a glass community.


  • Surge in art museum exhibitions and catalogues devoted to studio glass.
  • Collectors lend/donate their collections to museums.
  • Schools for glassmaking multiply throughout the United States and worldwide.
  • Influence of Venetian and Czech glass strengthens throughout the 1990s.
  • Levels of technical skill reach an apogee.
  • Glass studios range from one-person workshops to one person directing assistants who produce the glass; teamwork becomes an accepted procedure.
  • Opening up of former Soviet-bloc countries, notably the CSSR, increases exchange of information.
  • Internet resources related to contemporary glass emerge.
  • Glass is called the “new bronze” as artists with fine arts reputations and no or few glass skills work with skilled glassmakers to make their art: Robert Rauschenberg, Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois are examples.


  • A new generation of artists and dealers begins to take the place of the founding generation.
  • Lavish books about individual glass artists proliferate, as do sophisticated books about “how to” make glass, although late in the decade, digital or ebooks begin to replace printed ones.
  • Art Expositions become a major vehicle for selling work as well as for networking.
  • Economy affects the sale of glass (from 2008 forward). Studios and workshops struggle and/or close. Galleries close or change ownership.
  • Copyright issues command world attention.
  • Participatory glassmaking experiences for novices become prevalent, including the “Walk in Workshop” at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, and “Kids Design Glass” at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA.
  • Artists and architects use structural and other speciality glasses to create large scale walls and free standing structures almost entirely of glass.

A mature movement shows an awareness of its history including:

  • 50th anniversary of the “Studio Movement” celebration in 2012.
  • 60th anniversary of the Corning Museum of Glass in 2011.
  • 40th anniversary of Pilchuck in 2011.
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