Organization Spotlight

Glass Art Guild and the Glory of Glass

Kerry Transtrum places a piece of glass in the kiln.

Kerry Transtrum places a piece of glass in the kiln.

It’s a brisk Sunday morning in March. We’re in a large warehouse in South Salt Lake where Kerry Transtrumis demonstrating a technique that we can’t properly describe in these pages without the fear of internet filters shutting out our site.

Transtrum is at the bi-monthly meeting of the Glass Art Guild of Utah, an organization he formed with the help of a handful of friends thirteen years ago. At the time Utah already had a group devoted to what is known as stained glass so Transtrum formed the guild to promote kiln-formed glass. The guild has since added hot blown glass artists to its membership, which has grown to over seventy individuals from all along the Wasatch Front and Back.

The third Sunday of every odd month the Glass Art Guild of Utah meets in Spectrum Studios, the South Salt Lake art space begun by Dan Cummings in 1994. Spectrum Studios is a multi-use space: each artist has their individual corner or room, but much of the space and equipment is open to be used for collaborations. It fits the Glass Art Guild perfectly.

Glass Art Guild founder Dan Cummings.

Glass Art Guild founder Dan Cummings.

About half the guild’s membership is on hand for the March meeting, sipping coffee and downing muffins and donuts, weaving through the rows of work tables, where glass projects and treats intermingle. As much as any technical or professional goals, the organization’s meetings are about camaraderie and networking. As minutes are read and announcements made members good-naturedly kibbitz the speaker. Jodi McRaney Rusho’s experience as an eighth-grade teacher becomes evident when she takes control of the crowd to talk about their exhibition schedule. She announces two of their upcoming shows, and encourages everone to participate: “We need to show we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Jodi McRaney Rusho reads the announcements to the guild at a recent meeting at Spectrum Studios.

Jodi McRaney Rusho reads the announcements to the guild at a recent meeting at Spectrum Studios.

One guild show happens this month at Patrick Moore Gallery in Salt Lake. A Gathering of Glass, which opens May 21, is open to all members of the guild, working in all forms of glass. The following exhibit, which opens July 30th at Finch Lane Gallery, is a juried fine art exhibit with works by guild members.

As an organization the guild works because everyone takes turns doing their part. Cheryl Peterson, a graphic- and now web-designer, came to glass about four years ago when she saw a class at Western Art Glass. She says she “finally found an art form I loved.” Now she serves as the president of the guild. For her part of the meeting Peterson talks about the group’s marketing and promotion strategies. She shows everyone their new bumper stickers and reminds them to post examples of their work on the guild’s website. 

Glass Art Guild president Cheryl Peterson.

Glass Art Guild president Cheryl Peterson.

The guild’s strength comes from promoting their artform as a whole. Peterson says people that attend are a total cross section, “left-brained professionals looking for a creative outlet, or people so creative they could never balance their check book.” Each artist has separate goals — some making glass beads for jewelry, others working on large public art projects — but everyone, professionals and amateurs alike, work together.

Though it is not the easiest artform to take up — it’s expensive, and requires a kiln and lots of technical training — glass continues to attract newcomers in Utah. That’s because, as Peterson says, anyone “looking for an [artistic] outlet will find plenty of people willing to help, and a lot of camaraderie.”

Individual members are constantly improving their skills, and share their expertise with the group. Guild member Sarinda Jones has been invited to participate in the Northlands Residency in Scotland next month. She will study architectural kiln-formed glass, and is eager to bring her knowledge back to Utah.

Much of this knowledge-sharing occurs at the guild’s bi-monthly meetings, where demonstrations can range from intense glass techniques to pointers on marketing. This particular weekend Kerry Transtrum has been teaching a class on “cane pulling,” and for the guild’s meeting demonstrates the technique. Using different colored pieces, he prepares his design in a 1 1/2 inch square space. This is attached to a long rod and placed into a small box furnace through a circular opening (the glass art term for this item has now shifted in common parlance to be associated with anonymous encounters in bathroom stalls — hence the embargo on our opening paragraph). Once the square has been heated sufficiently it is dipped in glass, and then suspended from the ceiling. Next Transtrum uses pliers to pull on the glass while another guild member applies heat. They stretch the original design into a cane more than three feet long and place it under towels to cool.

Members of the Glass Art Guild at a recent meeting.

The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.

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