It was the typical love at first sight story.
I was a sophomore in college when I took my first glass blowing class. The intensely brilliant heat of the molten goo was immensely captivating. It was in that class that I saw a slideshow from a recent graduate, showing off their summer adventure at the in WA. I convinced my parents to send me in that summer of ‘83′. New to the world of glass art, I randomly chose a class on sand casting with the instructor Bertil Vallien. I showed up with a fifty pound backpack filled with all the clothing I would need for the two week course. I brought nothing to push into the sand, as the notes of what to bring to the class were ignored. Nevertheless, I had a blast literally plunging my face into a box of sand then pouring molten glass into the cavity. The class was off the chain! While I was in the back organizing some tools during clean up at the end of the wonderful session, Bertil beckoned me over to where the entire class was huddled up around all the sand we used, swept into a great pile on the floor. Everyone surrounded me then bodily picked me up and pressed my entire body face down into the sand. All the instructors and technicians then grabbed ladles and emptied the contents of both glass furnaces into the man shaped hollow. We shut off the house lights, hooting and dancing about in the vivid heat and glow, yet Bertil wasn’t done. All of a sudden he produces a small boat that his class interns had secretly built, outfitted with a modified chair stolen from the cafeteria, and adorned with freshly picked wild flowers. Large steel blow pipes were used to pry the glowing molten glass man out of the sand pile to place it sitting in the boat. It seemed as if the smoke and flames reached all the way up into the iconic rafters. Hoisting the float onto steady shoulders, the entire school paraded down to the campus pond bearing the flaming boat. All the while we were chanting “Blowing‘s out! Casting’s in!” I can still see in my mind’s eye the great ponderosa pines and starry sky reflected in the water, as the blazing skiff drifted out a bit, then capsized. The plan of the Viking King floating out onto the pond on a flaming ship was thwarted by the laws of physics, as the top heavy figure in the boat anticlimactically tipped over and slipped into the water, leaving a glowing “lady” at the bottom of the lake. This being my formative context into the world of glass art it is no wonder I was so smitten.