Topic: College of Fine Arts

December 2, 2015

Dylan Martinez, a graduate student studying glassmaking at Ball State, works on an ornament that will be for sale at Ball State’s glass ornament sale Dec. 3 and 5. Proceeds will help fund a May 2016 trip the students are taking to study glassblowing techniques in Poland.

Glass blowing is a hot job that Clayton Burns thinks is pretty cool.

Standing in front of a furnace burning at more than 2,000 degrees, the junior from Minnesota said it’s his love affair with the material — one of the world’s most versatile — that made him want to dedicate his life to mastering it as a fine art.

“The things you can do with glass are incredible,” he said. “Bend it, mold it, break it — it took only one glass blowing class for me to get hooked.”

But Burns understands it’s the finishing process, known in the industry as cold-working, that’s every bit as important for glass artists to master as hand-shaping molten glass.

Different styles of creation

Using water-lubricated pads, blades and spinning wheels, cold-working involves grinding, blasting, carving, etching and polishing glass into finished pieces of art. It’s wet, slow work that’s the specialty of visiting professor Marzena Krzeminska-Baluch.

An artist and educator from Poland’s Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design, Krzeminska-Baluch is spending the 2015-16 academic year teaching at Ball State, leading courses in kiln casting and cold-working for students at the university’s Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass.

“So far it’s been a wonderful opportunity,” the Polish native said. “American students amaze me. They want to experiment right away, trying to explore their own paths as artists through the secrets and surprises of the material.”

In Poland, most glass artists specialize in kiln casting, cold-working and design. American schools place more of an emphasis on glassblowing, Krzeminska-Baluch explained.

Polish glass students spend more time designing artwork and then hire technicians to fire the pieces before returning the material to them for completion.

“Cold-working is not as glamorous as glassblowing,” said Krzeminska-Baluch, “and since it takes a lot longer and requires quite a bit of patience, a lot of artists hate it, but I love it.”

Students to travel to Poland

Graduate student Dylan Martinez puts the finishing touches on a glass ornament while junior Clayton Burns looks on.

When Krzeminska-Baluch returns to Poland in the spring, she will bring a group of Ball State students who will spend two weeks at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy before embarking on field trips to glass factories across the Czech Republic, a country famous for its fine art glass.

Second year graduate student Dylan Martinez sees multiple opportunities. “It’s my first time to Europe, and I’m excited to go because cold-working is a skillset that’s harder to pick up in America,” he said, “but while we’re there, we’ll be meeting with more artists like Marzena who specialize in it.”

To help cover the trip’s costs, Martinez, Burns and other students are selling glass ornaments they created. “I think it’s a good experience for them,” Krzeminska-Baluch said. “As artists, they’ll have to support themselves through their work, and auctions and sales afford them a peek into what’s in store for them in the future.”

‘It’s been a good challenge’

Krzeminska-Baluch had already been to America for a few residency and scholarships programs at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, before she met Brent Cole, Glick’s director, during his 2014 visit to the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy. When he invited her to Muncie, curiosity got the better of her.

Because English is her second language, teaching in the states has brought significant learning curves, but what impresses her most about Ball State students is their drive.

“In Poland, we can spend up to two months discussing a work, drawing it,” she said, “but here, students play a lot instead. They’re in and out of the studio at all hours, working all the time.”

Having exhibited countless times in Europe, including a few solo shows, Krzeminska-Baluch is squeezing in time to work on her own pieces at the Glick Center. She loves having access to certain materials — sheets of high-quality, colorful Bullseye glass for example — that are harder to come by in Europe.

Learning from her has inspired Martinez, who says along with cold-working, he’s trying to perfect other artistic techniques such as glass sculpting. “Because Ball State’s glass program is still pretty new, we have a lot of freedom to try different things,” he said. “It’s been a good challenge, coming here.”

Adds Burns, whose latest cold-working project involves grinding and polishing a vase, “There isn’t a part of the glassmaking process that isn’t fascinating to me. That’s why I’m here.”

glass ornaments imageGlass ornament sale

6-9 p.m., Dec. 5, Glick Center

Hot glass demonstrations and a pop-up sale featuring works from the metals, clay and glass guilds. Proceeds will fund a spring trip to Poland for the students. For more info, contact the School of Art at 765-285-5838.