Step-by-step, always in motion-Viola, there is glass
Steven Ramsey, the associate professor of sculpture and glass, first found his love of glassblowing at his high school job, “That’s when I fell in love with the material – enough to know that I wanted to do something with it,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey teaches all levels of sculpture and all levels of glass at UNK. While both programs are relatively small, there are quite a few international students who enroll in his classes. Depending upon the home country of these international students, they may have not heard anything about glassblowing before coming to UNK. “The glass studio movement is predominantly a European-American phenomenon,” Ramsey said.
Glass studios are rare in Korea, Japan and China, and are only found in highly-populated areas. It’s a great bargain and opportunity to take glassblowing or sculpture as an undergrad, especially at UNK. Glassblowing is an expensive art, and the UNK glass studio recycles all the glass used to keep the cost down.
“I had one student who returned after he graduated who told me that if he knew what a great bargain he was getting while a student, he would’ve spent a lot more time in the studio,” Ramsey said.
The beginning class, Glass I, is all about manipulating the material, according to Ramsey. One of the first challenges is getting the material out of the furnace because it’s a liquid. However, glass does not have the thin consistency of water but is thicker and slower, moving like honey on the end of the blowpipe.
Students need to learn how to handle a material that’s always in motion. They have to get it out of the furnace and coordinate their working process in moving between the bench and the furnace while using the tools to shape their project.
Ramsey does a demonstration to illustrate what students will be working toward during that class period and the practice time following it at the beginning of each class.
Each student then has a total of three hours to come into the studio and work outside of class. By the end of the semester, in the Glass I class, students are shown how to incorporate sand-blasting as well as adding color to decorate their pieces. Ramsey shows them how to grind and polish the glass. It’s a steep learning curve for a 16-week course.
Learning the process and doing it enough that you’re not thinking about the movements as individuals because you’ll have the coordination down purely by repetition. “Everything seen in this studio is either based on a cylinder or a sphere,” Ramsey said.
Students start off making very simple shapes: spheres and cylinders. One of the first assignments due at mid-term is a sphere.
“Glassblowing is one of those things that’s like riding a bicycle, you never really forget,” said Ramsey, “But in order to keep up, you can’t wake up one day three weeks later of not working and expect to make something great.”
Ramsey keeps up his own practice by doing things that challenge him. “I try to teach myself things I don’t know in order to teach my students,” Ramsey said. “It’s really embarrassing to attempt to do something and fail in front of a student.”
The learning process is lifelong for Ramsey. He says he learns something new every time he comes into the studio.
UNK has offered a glassblowing program for 40 years and has a 3D art major and minor that can focus on glass. The studio is located in the southwest corner of Otto Olson. Ramsey wants students to know that anyone who is curious is more than welcome to come by. The studio is always open.
Glass Pumpkin Sale
Friday, Oct. 27 in the Fine Arts Building – from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Video at the Antelope
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