Hello again! If you've been keeping up with my artist profiles I would like to thank you for your support and encourage you to join us at our main event, the Michigan Glass Project, this July. Proceeds from the sale of silent auction art work along with monetary donations will go toward a charity, and this year we are donating to Art Road Nonprofit. Art Road is an incredible organization that is bringing art classes back to Detroit Public Schools. To this day they provide art classes to over 800 students, along with full time art teachers and supplies, at zero cost to the schools. Our team has been volunteering in these classrooms and they've seen first hand the enormous positive impact these classes have on the children who now have access to them. This event is about a lot more than selling glass, it is a glimpse of hope for the young creators of Detroit; so spend, spend generously and know that together we can make a difference!
This week I had the chance to meet an artist I am a huge fan of: Michigan's Marc VandenBerg. I was invited to the Juicebox Studio (where Marc and Adam Thomas work together combining furnace and torch glass blowing methods) to interview Marc and he was kind enough to demonstrate cane working, a glassblowing method that involves pulling molten glass into really thin tubes and is used to add intricate patterns and stripes to hand blown glass objects. It's a technique that is obviously difficult, yet Marc and his assistant make it look easy.
Fans of VandenBerg's admire his glass creations for their intricate design and attention to detail. Much of VandenBerg's work is figurative and mythological, often exploring the human body and its relationship to Mother Nature. VandenBerg says, "a lot of the techniques I use are Venetian influenced. My style is figurative. I use a lot of furnace tools when I work glass on the torch. I usually try to say something with what I'm doing but sometimes I just want to do something different. The antelope-headed woman to me is a representation of Mother Earth. I made a goblet where I had a male rhino-headed man stabbing people and I called it Natural Disaster. I mostly just enjoy beautiful figures."
VandenBerg has been interested in glass since childhood, but he ended up attending Michigan State University and pursuing a Communications degree, "two years before I graduated I ended up buying a torch and getting into it. When I picked it up I intended for it to be something to do here and there and then have a real job, and that worked out really well for me (laughs)." Instead of pursuing television VandenBerg got a job working furnace glass at Greenfield Village inside the Henry Ford Museum. Here he worked making recreations of Old World American glass that would have been made in the 17-1800's, "we were production glass blowers so we made product for the stores. It was an environment where we could work a lot with skill building products that you might normally not have time to work with in other studios. The whole product line was awesome because it had a lot of hot bits that were added, like solid feet or handles. There's another skill involved in being able to add hot bits and being able to see things on the fly because most of it: you get one shot, or you start over."
Working production in a hot shop full time is physically demanding and after doing it for 15 years VandenBerg admits that it took a toll on him artistically. Nowadays he is working glass full time out of his own studio and claims that he puts a lot of pressure on himself. "I want to continue to find new ways to combine the furnace and the lamp work and focus on bringing the two disciplines together. That is my unique strength as an artist, that I can work torch and furnace equally well and I can work with the same material from one to the other." Most of Vandenberg's work displays the larger blown vessels from the furnace combined with additional smaller bits done on the torch.
Goblets are a huge part of Marc's personal production style, as he says, "goblets are the Holy Grail of glassmaking. There are traditional objects that speak to skill: in ceramics it's teapots, in glass it's goblets" Recently he has been working on what he calls 'Skulltini's,' martini glasses with stacked skulls as the stem.
Marc VandenBerg and his studio partner Adam Thomas have brought the hot shop to the Michigan Glass Project for the past three years. This is one of the most exciting and unique features of the MGP and we have been honored to have Marc's continuous support of our event, "it's about being connected to the community. I remember Drew (Kups) and I talked a few years prior about how there is so much value in what we do, there is interest in it. It's something foreign, something primal. It's something you can capitalize off of, but for the Project it's just about helping the community."
To see more of Marc's work visit him on the web:
FB: Marc VandenBerg