Hi there! My name is Bianca and I am proud to present to you the Michigan Glass Project Blog! We are so happy you've joined us. The team here at MGP has been hard at work gearing up for the Fourth Annual Michigan Glass Project and we couldn't be more excited to show you what we've been working so hard on. For those who are new here, the Michigan Glass Project is a nonprofit organization that holds an annual live glass blowing event that raises money for charity. It's an amazing opportunity to witness firsthand the unique art of glass blowing demonstrated by local and national artists, and to buy some glass while you're at it! The proceeds from this years event will be donated to the local nonprofit Art Road, a charity that is putting art classes (including the instructor and supplies) back in to Detroit Public Schools. We're incredibly excited to be working with this charity and we love the cause! We love it so much we want to throw an incredible three day glass party to raise money for it. So please! Join us.
Drew Kups is more than just one of the many artists you will see at this years main event, he's actually one of the people responsible for making the whole thing happen. And we'll get to that soon. But first, let's find out what he's all about. I can safely say that if you've lived in Detroit for any length of time, Drew Kups is, at the very least, a familiar face. Those who know him more intimately would say that the man is not that complicated... he loves two things: blowing glass and having a good time. Over the time that I've known him I would say that it's his humility that makes him such a people person.
Almost twenty years ago, after leaving his home state of Michigan, Drew ended up in Eugene, Oregon. At the time, glass artists like Bob Snodgrass, the godfather of the famous 'color-changing' glass, were laying the foundation for one of the strongest glass communities in the country and what some refer to today as the 'mecca' for boro glass. Unfortunately for Kups, the glassblowing scene was very competitive and making connections was difficult. So Kups did what any true artist would do, he set up shop in his basement and taught himself. But he didn't have to do it all on his own. Doug Zolbert and Kups began their first studio together at this time. Without the modern YouTube conveniences we have today, Kups and Zolbert learned the art of glassblowing through the ancient method of Trial and Error.
Practically two decades of experience behind him and Kups doesn't come off at all like he knows everything about glass. Actually, he would be the first to tell you that the one thing you can count on in the glass world is change. From techniques and tools to color, torches and form, Kups knows that the more tricks you have up your sleeve the further you can push the limits of your art. He talks about the growing spectrum of glass borosilicate options and how these changes are just another opportunity for artists to demonstrate what can be achieved through this medium. In Drew's words, "techniques are like vocabulary words. The more words you know the more eloquently you can speak."
Over the years collaborations with other artists has become one of Drew's favorite ways to push his art to new levels. While he says he initially came to his studio in Detroit (what is now known as Urban Pheasant, located in the Russell Industrial Center) to 'get away,' he has to this day collaborated with more than one hundred local artists. For Drew, collaborating with other artists is the best way to learn new techniques and to create something totally unique.
Over the years glass trade shows have been one of the newest platforms for artists to connect and share with each other. One of the shows that had the biggest impact on Kups was the Colorado Project's in 2010 and 2011. Blade, a glassblower who was involved in making the Colorado Project happen, came to Detroit to establish a distribution hub for Glasscraft. During this time, after checking out local shops, Blade approached the team at Urban Pheasant and asked if they would be interested in putting together a similar event in Detroit, and that's where this event really began. As Kups describes his relationship with Blade, "he offered advice with little interference, introduced us to all the players and became an infinite source of wisdom ... that is how we got this insurmountable movement rolling, Blade was the first mover." So with Blade's help on the business end the team at Urban Pheasant put in tons of work to make this incredible event happen! Of course glass blowers want glass events to strengthen their bonds as a community of artists, but how did local charities become involved? The MGP has raised $36,000 over the last three years, all of which has been donated to the Belle Isle Aquarium, designed by noted architect Albert Kahn. The aquarium was reopened to the public in 2012 and is entirely run by volunteers. According to Drew it was actually local artist Jesse Knott's idea. "We were looking for something symbolic of the reawakening of the city. We all enjoy Belle Isle and spend a lot of time there. It only seemed natural to want to be a part of reopening the aquarium, which is truly a gem that just needed a little dusting."
Some of Drew's favorite techniques to work are honeycombs and implosions and he enjoys working in black and white or one color. When he's not working with glass he is one of Detroit's favorite bartenders at Grand Trunk Pub. To experience his techniques up close and personal join us this year at The Michigan Glass Project, we look forward to seeing you there!
To see more of Drews work give him a follow on Instagram: @bowlpusher