GLANC Scholarship News

In our January newsletter we announced the GLANC board granted scholarships for 2013 to 6 students through 6 institutions: San Francisco State University, Public Glass, California College of the Arts, The Crucible, San Jose State University, and the Bay Area Glass Institute. So far 2 scholarship opportunities have been completed, both of them for the Karen Willenbrink workshop at Public Glass. Recipients Cher Stone (PG scholarship) and Megan Dykema (SFSU scholarship) have written the following:


Thank you for the scholarship to audit the Karen Willenbrink workshop at Public Glass. I am retired, on a limited income and fairly new to glass. The workshop has opened a new way for me to look at glass and new ways in which glass can be worked. This was a great opportunity for me. I really enjoyed Karen and Jason and their team. The coordination of the work and the team effort was amazing. And watching the intense creations appear out of the molten glass: griffons, flowers, frogs, birds , skulls, all pulled, cut, shaped out of a blob of hot glass was certainly a wonderful experience. I am inspired to try new things. I had a great week. Thank you and also a thank you to Public Glass for its supportive community and all the learning possibilities provided.

Cher Stone

Below: Karen Willenbrink and Jasen Johnsen




Taking the class with Karen Willenbrink was an eye opener because my glass experience has been mainly based on blowing vessels. Watching her for the first time was remarkable because there was so much happening all at once it was hard to take it all in. Hot glass sculpturing was best described to me as doing a marathon. Your pace starts out slow, controlled but still holds its intensity. On the other hand, blowing vessels is much more like a sprint, a constant concentrated rush. So taking on this class was a great change of pace.

On reflection, there are a few key things that have stuck with me after taking Karen’s class. When first starting a sculpture it is just like when you are drawing. You start with the basic shapes and slowly build up the details to the finished piece. In that way, sculpture is really similar to blowing but somehow not as intuitive. Another key part is that the bits being brought are as or almost as important as the piece you are working on. They require just as much concentration and thought put in them.

While making any of her works Karen always had one or more pictures right on the bench to reference. Though this may seem insignificant, keeping a picture of what is going to be made next to you and always rechecking it while making the piece is key. I have found that pulling from memory actually makes it harder in the long run.

When I first saw Karen’s work I was amazed and perplexed by her use of color. Even before taking the class I was eager to hear her talk about patterns and how she chooses the colors and how the seamless layering occurs. Whether trying to replicate or express a meaning, using the right color is crucial to communicate and what I found the colors she chooses are the “dirtier” colors of glass. What I mean by this is the colors that look the least plastic or processed. Especially when pairing and layering these colors together it gives her work a more tangible and naturalistic feel. Another nature based glass artist is who has the same color philosophy is Clare Belfrage. While taking Clare’s class at Pilchuck I found that she chooses colors that are softer, and easier to approach, which all give her pieces that same naturalistic look.

Though Karen made a variety of different animals and plants during the class, my favorite would have to be the zebra frog. From the very beginning it was hard to tell what exactly what she was doing but that was also part of the fun to try to figure it out. The frog used a combination of frits stripes fused together before hand and layers of powders to create that zebra frog look.

The frog was actually made blown then flattened in parts to make it solid. This later gave way to what amazed me the most. The very last step was to inflate the throat of the frog which was done through poking a hole in the abdomen then heating just the throat so when she blew into the hole it seemed as if the frog was actually breathing. One thing that is great about glass is that is goes through many stages of liquid and solid and reverse. So being able to see the frog go from a sphere, to a moving and breathing frog, and then to the solid frog that came out from the annealer was a great experience.

Megan Dykema