Tell us about yourself!
I am a glass artist and educator, living in the woods of Smithville, Tennessee. I serve as Director of the Appalachian Center for Craft, part of Tennessee Tech University, which, for nearly 40 years, has been devoted to teaching fine craft in glass, metals, clay, wood, and fiber.
What draws you to the material you work with, and why have you chosen the processes that you use in your work?
When I was an undergrad at the University of California at Los Angeles, a friend encouraged me to take a glass class and I was instantly hooked. There it was my tremendous good fortune to learn to blow glass from Dick Marquis. He introduced us to many prominent artists in the field at a time when Bullseye Glass was creating its first tested-compatible glass formulas and when New Glass Review #1 was just coming out.
What themes do you pursue in your work?
At first I was drawn to the physicality of blowing glass—to the movement and challenge and immediacy of it all. Over time, my focus has shifted to kiln work, using lost wax and mold-making in slower, more deliberate ways, to carve out sculptural works that explore opacity and translucence, delving into ideas about belief, and the mutability of identity.
What's something about you that most people don't know?
My professional life is steeped in craft -- and living as a maker has led me to surprising places. I’ve built robots for music videos, carved landscapes and built cityscapes for commercials, met Harold Ramis while making a super-sized clock for the movie Groundhog Day. I worked with talented teams to create new lands and rides for theme parks in the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Paris. I continued my education at RISD, Pilchuck, Penland, Corning, Pittsburgh Glass Center, and later at RIT, to ultimately earn an MFA in glass. I was fortunate to travel as an AIR to Seto Japan, and later, to Boda Glasbruk, Sweden, as part of a group of international glass artist members of the Glass Heap Challenge. The collaborative experience in Sweden was particularly inspiring and has motivated me to reach out to create future collaborative projects with fellow artists.
Why are you a member of GAS?
I am a member of GAS because, at this point in my life, GAS is like my extended family. I’ve been going to conferences for years, made wonderful friends, and have volunteered in a variety of capacities. I am a past member of the media committee, having devoted time to conference calls and planning and interviewing and writing many articles for GASNews. Since the Norfolk conference, I am excited to be working with a wonderful new group comprised of glass art organizations devoted to serving youth and creating opportunities for underserved populations. We are developing this as a subset of the Education committee.
GAS is the nexus for making and sharing great happenings in our field! My life is richer when I am an active and engaged as a member of this community.
See more of Debra's work here