American Glass Guild Conference 2007

Email by E Steinebach on August 10, 2007

American Glass Guild Conference

My grandmother was a smart woman. She said, if you want to have something new to talk about, you have to get off your own front porch. The world will pass you by, if you stay safely tucked in.

Thinking I had lucked out on finding a direct flight to Providence, Rhode Island, I have lots to say about flying in an Air Canada aircraft, where I had both a window and an aisle seat. This twin propeller beauty sailed through to Providence, in less time than it took me to drive to the airport.

It takes a tremendous amount of planning and work to prepare a conference, the calibre of the American Glass Guild. Yes, there were some glitches, yes there were some egos and attitudes, but more importantly, with tolerance and understanding, we worked through them. Part of the excitement and drama, is the people watching, anyway. We are a small community, both with stars and warts. I had a great time. I met some amazing people. Even travelling on my own, coming from a self taught stained glass background and a one woman studio, I was welcomed. When, even in the moments of not being entirely sure about why I went, someone like Robert Pinart, would graciously materialize, sit and chat about his own excitement and being not so sure where he was supposed to be, either. This gentle sweet man was a delight and we would drift into and out of each others schedule, only to reappear, with a smile and a brief insiders tidbit.

My secret agenda was to meet with Jean Jacques Duval. I am a sucker for dalle de verre. I purposely attended the church tours in hopes of seeing some American installations. My sole, must see, lecture was the slides of Jean Jacques' works. When we were at St Brendan's Catholic Church, Helmut Schardt, who has worked with Duval, was there to answer questions about Benoit Gilsoul's work. Had I been able to corral Helmut into a quiet corner, the questions would have been about the dalle work.

And providence was with me in Providence, during one of the extremely expensive breakfast buffets, at the hotel, who should walk in a bit weary from the late night festivities, but Jean Jacques. He agreed to join me while he waited for Helmut to join him. Needless to say we had a wonderful conversation, with which Helmut joined in, on his arrival. This few moments are the ones that will stick with me for the rest of my stained glass career. Sure, learning about new techniques, being inspired by new and inventive work, seeing new materials are also what these conferences are about, but it is the unforeseen gifts of friendship, and generosity of spirit from a someone you admire, that truly make an event, for me.

Besides my secret agenda, I was there to network. Not my strong suit. Being, what I thought, was the sole Canadian didn't help either. I was very impressed with the number of people who knew each other, it almost felt like I had somehow crashed the wrong school reunion. Again the warmth and friendly curiosity, offered me a comfortably greeting into an interesting community, so much of my concerns, were unwarranted. For all of you a bit apprehensive about coming out to this kind of event, don't be. There will always be someone to connect to. The evening we had a community dinner, at a local restaurant, was somehow more informal than some of the meals, at the hotel and it turned out to be a great evening.

I learned lots and will be sharing some of the information I gleaned from the various lectures, in other articles. I will, however share an interesting meeting right off the bat. The morning of the church tour, had us meeting the bus fairly early. As we waited, I noticed a man in full motorcycle leathers. Musing to myself, I wondered if this man could be Dennis, the bevel guy. I had posted my intention of coming to Providence, but had heard nothing. When I overheard the couple in front of me recognizing the man, I inquired. Yes indeed, it was Dennis Swan, the bevel guy. When we returned at the end of the day, Dennis greeted the bus and we had the opportunity to meet. In less than 20 minutes he had me upstairs looking at his newest bevel creations. His Illusion series, is mind blowing. Bevels, bevelled partially on both sides.

The effect is hypnotic, especially as you move the bevel in a level plain. The internal dimension of the bevel's reverse bevel, fills the glass with refractive potential. These bevels will look good no matter where the sun tracks in the sky. I was very fortunate to receive a sample of this type of bevel and am excitedly waiting for the right project to showcase it.

So for all of you who said you couldn't, wouldn't, or feared that they can't afford to, I say get it in the budget, so you can! One thing I've noticed about glass artists is that we can be an independent sort of lot. And that's great. It lets us be very resourceful, inventive and creative. It can also keep us from networking with each other, and dare I say, prevents us from getting to know our competition. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. When we can honestly refer to our competition because we know they are better able to do this one thing that separates us, well I think it speaks to the professionalism of all stained glass artists. How does it go… united we stand, divided we fall? So start the piggy bank for next years conference. The Artists in Stained Glass forum is a great way to let others know you are going. Perhaps you can meet and share the ride or flight. I know quite a few people bunked in with each other, to save money. So there really is no excuse, see you next year.