By Madeline Orton
Once every two years, artists, curators, gallerists, and fans gather for a four-day celebration, as Millville becomes the center of the world for glass art.
“This is the one time when we’re all, as many of us as we could get here … in one place at the same time,” said Stan Epstein, Co-Chair of GlassWeekend at WheatonArts.
“It’s summer camp for glass lovers,” explained Henry Wasserstein, Co-Chair alongside Epstein and Vice Chair of the WheatonArts Board. “The hotel on the premises is sold out immediately, and the hotels in the area get the overflow and they’re generally booked as well.”
Epstein expounded, “We live in Westfield, New Jersey, which is only about two and a half hours away from here, so that’s an easy trip for us, but people come here from all over the country.”
While glass as a material is thought to date back to 3500 BCE, the American Studio Glass Movement, as it’s called, just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Andrew Page, Editor of the Urban Glass Art Quarterly, explained, “As a material for art, it’s relatively young. It was really only in 1962 that it was demonstrated that you could [consciously] make one-of-a-kind sculptures out of glass.”
That newness has been a major contributing factor to the development of the art form’s tight-knit community.
“As a result,” Page continued, “there’s a sort of champion quality to a lot of collectors who are feeling that they have to represent this material, overcome perhaps, some resistance to seeing this material, which is usually an industrial material, used as a material for sculpture.”
Epstein is one such collector and champion for the art form. “It’s only 50 years old, so most of us who have been collecting, even for a shorter time, know the artists. he artists have invited us to their homes. We’ve watched them work. We’ve seen where they live,” he explained.
“It’s really like a family,” agreed Carmen Lozar, a Rising Star-designated artist showing her work at GlassWeekend. “And everyone is very sharing. Everyone will go out of their way to give you information, to help teach you, and to help you on your way, and to encourage you to keep going.”
For WheatonArts, hosting GlassWeekend is a perfect fit. Working with glass is not new to the region. With natural resources like sand, wood, silica, and soda ash, nearby Salem County became home to the nation’s first successful glass factory in 1789.
Attendees couldn’t be happier to spend a few days in this historic area sharing demonstrations, lessons, and exhibitions on the art form that’s brought them together.
Belinda Manning of Pleasantville, New Jersey is a glass artist herself and is attending GlassWeekend to explore other areas of the art form. “[Glass is] always moving. Even when it looks like it’s standing still, it’s moving. And so the thought of that has always a possibility in it [and] is something that I enjoy thinking about.”
“You can do so many things with glass,” said Wasserstein. “It could be molded so many different ways, and it’s so colorful. And so everybody has his own reason and everybody loves it for a different reason, but we all love glass.”
And for Manning, GlassWeekend is an inspiration to put her love for creating glass art into action. “I’m looking forward to going home and pulling out my kiln, plugging it in, and cutting up some glass!”