My path to art was not traditional, in that I did not begin young, and did not train in college or develop early in my adult life. I did not go through a starving artist phase, or live in a shared flat in Soho or Paris. The window to attend the Rhode Island School of Design and to do residencies around the world had long been closed by the time I realized I wanted to know more about art. My family responsibilities and needs were real and omnipresent at the time I knew I no longer wanted to be an engineer.
So I was on the horns of a dilemma, as they say.. When my wife (bless her) and I agreed she would be the primary breadwinner so that I could pursue art, (and we would adjust our standard of living accordingly), I agreed to take on more of the household duties and child rearing duties than I had when I was working. Laundry, paying bills, hauling kids, and such chores shifted more to me. There was left a remainder of part-time that gave me a chance. So I couldn't go back to school, especially at an out of town school for glass, but I could get started. That was an incredible feeling, to be able to take on this new thing I wanted so badly.
Naturally, the next issue was how to pay for this little life experiment. Glass is expensive, and kilns can be also if they are large or need special wiring. And there are other accessory tools and things you need to equip yourself even for rudimentary work. (Fortunately, I was pensioned off, and not fired out-right, or this endeavor would have been a non-starter.) I was able to use a bit of my pension for seed money. I did everything I could to build things myself, such as my benches and storage. I sold my canoe, my firearms, and my coin collection, because I realized I wanted to do glass more than any of these. I could not afford a separate space, so I started in my basement, gradually cleaning out and repurposing it to a glass studio. My wife thinks I am after the laundry room too - (not exactly, I just don't like wet laundry hanging in my studio..)
As I went, I started taking local glass classes as much as I could at small studios nearby. Anything that would fit my schedule and budget, that would teach me about glass. I was fortunate to live within a short drive of Ed Hoy, Int'l, a large wholesaler of art glass supplies. Hoy offers several classes every year, and this gave me a 'next phase' of training. As these began to feel repetitive, my girls had reached the age where less constant care was needed, and I was able to travel to summer intensive workshops (again with my wife's support!) out of town. And little by little I gained a wide exposure to the thoughts and techniques of many successful glass artists. I expanded from there to attending workshops at the Corning Museum of Glass (in my view the best place on the planet to study glass) and the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Then finally in 2015 I was able to travel to the Czech Republic to see where the whole Czech glass movement began... a dream of mine for many years.
In a way I have accumulated a much better glass experience than I would have in the traditional path, in the breadth and quality of the teachers I have gotten to know. In some ways I am as green as ever (I don't know art history, for example, except what I have learned about glass), but from the point of view of understanding the material and techniques to work it, it would be hard to assemble a better group to learn from. And to a person, they have all been enthusiastic teachers, willing to work hard and share openly to help their students learn. I am very grateful and indebted to them all. I would like to acknowledge them here: