Are you the kind of person who sees the glass as half empty?
Or do you see the glass as half full?
What if you were the person who actually made the glass, instead?
Today I will be interviewing my very good friend Victoria Buckland, who works for The Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Her job is cool. It’s almost too cool. For those of you who don’t know about Corning, it’s kind of a big deal!
I have attended some of her glass shows in the past, and have seen her work first-hand. It’s literally mind blowing!
I have two gorgeous pieces and some jewelry from her that I love so much! I have a spectacular bowl she made just for me sitting on my coffee table. I’m pretty sure the closest that I’ve ever come to being a mom is holding my breath while people prop their feet up on my table, dangerously close to my bowl, until I can’t take it anymore and swat them away (my precious)!
The girl has a gift. I put some pictures of her work below so you can check it out yourself!
Before I dive into the interview, I want to tell you a little about Torey (I call her Torey).
So, where do I begin with Ms. Victoria Buckland?
Have you ever met someone and instantly hit it off? I’ve known Torey for years; we met at Salisbury University in Maryland. When we first met, it felt as though we were always friends — we just jive well together. Maybe we were friends in a past life or something. It is a known fact that she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside — my kind of person!
You know that one friend you experience really crazy things with? Like, you’re driving with them to a friend’s place in a small town you’ve never been to before? And it’s dark out and you can’t really see much when you’re pulling out of a gas station, so you head onto the highway? Then after a few minutes, you see strange lights coming toward you only to realize those lights are actually headlights, and you guys are driving down the wrong side of the highway? You know, the kind of friend that never flinches, and makes the quick decision to gun it over the median, kicking up rocks and ripping up shrubbery, until you’re safely on the correct side of the highway, in front of a police car?
You mean you’ve never been through something like that with your friends?
Yeah, uh, we never did that either…
I have about a million Torey stories that are crazy, hilarious, inspiring, and just plain awesome. She came out to California with me years ago, on a whim, to see our friend’s band play at the Whisky. She is the ultimate road dog.
I actually have a few stories that are downright epic, but I’m going to tell you a nice, light one today because some things are better left unsaid and some stories are better left untold (a.k.a. my parents visit this blog).
Let me preface this story by saying this: If Torey were an action figure, her power accessory would be her white Honda Ridgeline truck. Anyone who knows her can recognize that thing from a mile away. Interestingly enough, the story I want to share with you today involves myself, Torey, and her truck.
We were driving down Route 1 in Maryland when her truck ran out of gas. We tried to flag someone down for well over an hour. A guy finally stopped and said he would fill up one of those red gas gallon tanks and come right back.
Torey gave him some cash, both of us hoping he wouldn’t take the money and run. I have no idea why it took him an hour to get back, but we were so grateful that he helped to get us enough gas to drive to the nearest station.
After many “Oh my God! Thank you’s,” he drove off.
Torey went to start the truck but nothing happened.
What the heck?!
Oh, no! THE BATTERY DIED!!! We had the radio on and the doors open while we were waiting for our good samaritan guy to return, who was now long gone, and there was no one to jump the battery for us! We had to wait, without a radio this time, until someone could help us out… again. Two Einsteins over here… and that good ol’ white truck.
So, now that you have a little background on my friend, let’s dig in and see what Ms. Buckland is up to these days!
If you visit Corning’s Facebook page, you will find this in the About section:
“Corning (www.corning.com) is one of the world’s leading innovators in materials science. For more than 160 years, Corning has applied its unparalleled expertise in specialty glass, ceramics, and optical physics to develop products that have created new industries and transformed people’s lives.”
How does it feel to be a part of this institution? Is Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) like the Mecca for glassblowing?
It is a huge honor to be a part of the Corning Museum of Glass! Every time I walk through the doors to The Studio, I can’t believe that I have the privilege of working in a facility so dedicated to the education and artistic development of glassblowing. Not just hot glass (or furnace work), but fusing, casting, flame-working, etc. All types of glass are studied and pushed to the limits at CMOG.
The Museum has the biggest collection of glass in the world — some of it dates back to early second century B.C. My favorite part of the museum, though, is the new Modern Art wing that opened in March. CMOG already has such a huge collection of unique, unorthodox art glass, but I feel like the glass on display in the new wing gives the public more of an opportunity to see what can be done with the medium.
In conjunction with the Modern Art Wing, CMOG built a new, state-of-the art glass studio in order to put on informative Hot Glass Shows for the public. It is currently the best, most well equipped studio in the world. In order to accommodate the public, there is a five hundred seat amphitheater that faces the studiostage, and the 2300 Hot Glass Show team makes glass for the public a few times every day.
Glass artists from all over the world are constantly coming to work on that stage and to teach classes in The Studio. So yes, to answer your question, CMOG is the Mecca for glassblowing and it is a huge honor to be here! I’m constantly learning and I never stop being overwhelmed and amazed by the talent that surrounds me.
How did you land a job there?
I was taking a class here in February and the teacher’s assistant mentioned to me that Make Your Own Glass would be hiring in the summer. MYOG is a feature in The Studio that allows museum visitors to have an up close encounter with molten hot glass. The job required the glassblower to work with three to four customers every forty minutes making ornaments, flowers, sculptures, pumpkins, etc. I tried out for the position, and I found out I got the job two weeks later! That phone call definitely changed my life. I was asked to start early to cover a position and ended up moving to New York two weeks after that phone call.
Do you enjoy teaching others?
I love teaching the public about glass! Watching people see gooey, hot glass for the first time will never get old. I’ve been working with glass for seven years and every time I see it, it still blows my mind! Sharing the excitement of playing with “lava” every day is more than I could ask for. I’ve also had the opportunity to TA a few classes since I’ve been working at The Studio, and getting to watch others learn and become passionate about the craft I love so much is extremely rewarding.
Can you briefly explain the process? Also, how hot does it get in the studio?
The glass we work with is called soft glass. It sits in a furnace at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the same temperature as lava. We gather the glass out of the furnace with either solid or hollow stainless steel pipes. Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, so one end of the pipe can be 2,300 degrees while the other end remains room temperature.
When the glass is hot, it has the consistency of honey, so we are always turning the pipe so the glass does not droop off onto the floor. Glass is always losing its heat, though, so we consistently heat the glass up in a heating chamber called a “glory hole” that is kept at 2,300 Fahrenheit. We use the hollow stainless steel pipes to blow into the glass to make vessels like cups, bowls, or vases, and we use the solid rods for solid sculpting items like glass figures or paper weights. Glass is all about timing, fluidity, and learning to work with gravity, not against it.
The Studio at CMOG is ventilated pretty well so it doesn’t get as hot as other studios I’ve worked in, but working in the heat is just something you get used to. Sweat is just part of the job.
The intense heat was pretty shocking at first, but now I look forward to it.
What are some of the most difficult or challenging pieces to make in your opinion?
Probably goblets with extremely elaborate stems. They are so thin and delicate, and they lose their heat so quickly, so the working time is very short. I have a huge appreciation for intricate goblet makers.
Do you have any interesting stories working at Corning?
So, so many. We have a constant flow of international tourism, so we see so many different, interesting people in this tiny little town. I think the best part, though, is getting to meet so many famous glass artists and realizing how down to earth and supportive they are. Corning is a magical place! I know, not an interesting story!
Before working in New York, you were in Baltimore blowing glass. You originally had a good friend that you worked with on projects who passed away in 2014. How did that impact you and your work?
Sam and I blew glass together since we started in college. She was my best friend and my creative partner. We got really carried away when we got our first taste of glass, and we couldn’t stop experimenting with shapes, colors, and textures.
Instead of making the repetitive practice forms we should have been making, we tried to make whatever we could dream up, and we spent as much time in the studio as possible. That mentality really helped me to find my footing and my passion as a glass artist. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t known her and worked with her for so long. I lost my focus after I lost my partner, and I stopped blowing glass for a few months. I felt a pull to take that class in February of last year (along with some encouragement from a friend), and taking that class changed my life. I feel like Sam had a hand in that, too. I miss her every day and I constantly wonder what things would be like if we were still working together, but I feel her influence on my work and my life all the time.
What would you like to do with glass in your future?
I would like to work for as many people as possible and learn as much as possible so that I can travel the world making my own work. Said every glass artist ever…!
I remember you had a ton of doodles and drawings in notebooks that were really, really good. You always had an artistic psyche. Out of all the mediums you could have chosen, you picked glass. What drew you to glass to begin with?
Aw, thanks, girl! Glass has limitless potential. Being that it’s a 3D medium I can work with not only color, but also texture, form, and even light. The free forms that are captured in glass are incredible, and the skill it takes to create a perfectly symmetrical tight form is admirable. Also, I love the mixed media aspect. Glass looks beautiful with wood, metal, fabrics — so many things! It’s unbelievable what can be done with glass; I’ll never get bored!
You can work your whole life trying to master the different styles and techniques and not even scratch the surface. It’s also such a difficult thing to wrap your head around at first, using both hands at once, trying to understand how gravity is affecting this molten liquid on the end of a stick… the learning curves themselves are addicting. The people attracted to glass definitely like a challenge.
Who are the people in your field that you admire or are influenced by?
I love William Morris and his beautiful glass sculptures. I love glass that looks like it could be wood or stone. I admire so many glass artists for so many different reasons, though; there are so many ends of so many spectrums, I could go on forever!
Another big influence on me has been my friend David Reese. We started blowing glass at the same time, and his enthusiasm and passion for the craft has been an inspiration to me through the years.
Any advice for someone who is just starting out in your field?
Stick with it! Glass is tough. The first few years can be brutal, but if you put in the time and the effort, it is worth the sweat and tears! Expect to break a lot of glass! Your next piece is your best piece! Making it is most of the fun anyway. I can’t think of a more fulfilling art form, job, hobby, or whatever it may be to you. The glass community is pretty great too!
Will you come out to visit me soon?
That last question was a trap! Torey has put into writing that she will come out here for a visit! Woo!
If you are interested in Torey’s work, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to wrap up this interview with a journal entry I wrote ten years ago about art and artists. The example I used was a painting, but it absolutely applies to any and every form of art — including glasswork.
“Knowledge and wisdom are two completely different things. Anyone can acquire knowledge from the world around us. Knowledge is knowing the facts; wisdom is understanding them. Only the lucky ones will find true wisdom in this world. Two people can both look at something (like a painting, for example) and see completely different things. The person who only possesses knowledge can tell you what the painting is called, when it was made, its style, and who made it. Those details are not as important for the person with wisdom. The person with wisdom feels and grows from the painting. Artists are teachers for people who seek wisdom. Those with knowledge only see art as entertainment, and will never realize how valuable it really is.”
Thank you, Torey!
Until next time, everyone, take care!