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Artist of the Month
January 2020

Artist of the Month

David Graeber

David Graeber is a New Jersey-based glass artist whose introduction to glass as an art form came after a casual encounter with Paul Stankard. Graeber studied under and worked with Stankard from 1989 to 2009, learning the art form and developing his own style, direction, and emphasis. Today, Graeber has a devoted and expanding collector base. He is represented by L.H. Selman, Ltd., Chicago, IL.

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David Graeber

Artist of the Month

About David Graeber

David Graeber is a glass artist living in Westmont, New Jersey, with his family.  Born in 1967, he attended an area community college and vocational school before receiving private instruction in a variety of the arts.  Graeber’s introduction to glass as an art form came after a casual encounter with the prestigious Paul Stankard.  Graeber studied under and worked with Stankard from 1989 to 2009, learning the art form and developing his own style, direction, and emphasis.  While still a contributor at the Stankard studio, Graeber found success under his own name, working from a compact studio he built. Graeber enjoys teaching workshops in glassmaking as a way of giving back to the community. 

A lot of different elements can go into the making of a premier glass paperweight artist.  In his young adulthood, Dave Graeber seems to have been interested in just about everything relating to art and design if it also meant working with his hands.  This South Jersey native and high school wrestler went on to attend Camden County Community College and Gloucester County Vocational School.  In those institutions he studied commercial art, including package design and silk screening.  He also enjoyed photography classes back when each print was individually developed in the darkroom.  He later became an experienced woodworker.  At one time he had a sign business, specializing in custom painting on the sides of pickups and other trucks, for men who took their vehicles very seriously.  “You had to be confident to do that work,” says Graeber with a touch of wry humor.

One of Dave Graeber’s mentors in his early years was artist George Vail (“a Renaissance man” as Graeber defines him), who had taught Graeber first at Gloucester Vocational and then privately for a few years after graduation.  At the age of 18, Graeber was learning the art of forensic sculpture from Vail; that is the molding of the human head and face from latex in order to reconstruct the likenesses of the deceased for identification. He also learned small-scale architectural reconstruction, where damaged or missing parts of furnishings and building details could be ascertained and reproduced to make objects complete once again. To help pay the modest tuition for Vail’s private schooling, Graeber joined a two-man tree removal business with Bill Flowers, a fellow student of Vail’s.  Flowers would climb and cut the designated trees and Graeber would secure them with ropes and pull them down.

Despite his immersion in the arts up to that point, Graeber says, “The only thing I knew about glass is that I drank out of one.” 

That all changed.  The art world is full of stories about artists bartering their work in exchange for other services. So it was with an artist who had already attained renowned status in the world of fine glass paperweight creation, Paul Stankard. Stankard used to trade paperweights for gasoline and car servicing with John Graeber, who was Graeber’s uncle.  Through his uncle, Graeber wound up casually visiting Stankard’s studio in 1989.  Weeks later, Stankard invited Graeber to come and work for him in his studio and Graeber accepted the offer and the challenge.  Stankard had inquired about Graeber’s artistic background and seemed wholly satisfied by Graeber’s passion for working with his hands—and was unconcerned about examining Graeber’s samples or portfolios. 

Young Mr. Graeber started learning in the deep end of the pool at Stankard’s. (Graeber has memorable stories from those studio years.) In 2009, Graeber started his own art glass business, having mastered numerous glassmaking techniques and having developed his own working style and visual aesthetic.  Ten years later Graeber still works with Stankard about a day a week.

Dave Graeber has created both a life and a living from the magic of glass.  His intricate glass paperweights and impressive flameworking techniques are on display and can be accessed through the L H Selman website,, as well as Graeber’s own website.  He is careful to always keep in mind how much more there is to know and that you always need to be learning something new to expand your horizons as an artist.  He is restless and often makes no more than a few paperweights of a particular design before he needs to explore another direction. 

Graeber is grateful for his skills. He is also generous, considering art to be many things, foremost among them – a vehicle for sharing and giving back.  He teaches courses in glassmaking (often as a volunteer) both in his hometown area and in other parts of the country.  A couple years ago, Graeber called the L. H. Selman Gallery and instigated the Hurricane Harvey relief auction that the gallery posted after Graeber orchestrated donations from a dozen top paperweight artists in the country!  He has also given his time and energy to the nonprofit Project Fire, located on Chicago’s West Side, and helmed by glass artist Pearl Dick.

Graeber has said his creations often celebrate the memory of a loved one or the joy of a special event. They also reflect nature’s elegance and remarkable diversity. He has studied his subject matter carefully over the years. His major source of natural inspiration is the million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, which has served as a living laboratory for this artist. Graeber is always trying to “find a new illusion,” a new way to express the transcendence he experiences in those environs. And despite the stunning and widely collected artworks inspired by all that, Graeber prefers to be regarded as a craftsman, rather than an Artist

A final note…  Back when Graeber was pulling down trees to pay George Vail’s tuition, it so happened that his business partner Bill wanted Graeber to meet his sister, Sandra.  A blind date was arranged for them to meet at the Philadelphia Zoo—and Graeber has recently posted a letter about that blind date, to mark their 29th wedding anniversary!  David and Sandra Graeber now have three grown children: Karen, Kyler, and Kevin. And that modest tuition Graeber paid to George Vail for his invaluable tutelage? When it was time for Graeber to move on, Vail presented him with a top of the line set of matching, Swiss-made woodworking tools as a graduation gift that Graeber says must have equaled the tuition he had paid the master.  Now that’s the spirit of art.

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Acknowledgment of Gallery:
We are grateful to L.H. Selman, Ltd., Chicago, IL, for providing the Artist of the Month.

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The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to further the development and appreciation of art made from glass.

The Alliance informs collectors, critics and curators by encouraging and supporting museum exhibitions, university glass departments and specialized teaching programs, regional collector groups, visits to private collections, and public seminars.