Glassmaker sees teaching as a critical part of his craft
Johnny Glass’s name is his destiny. The Knoxville native grew up dreaming of a career on stage and screen, worked at the Bijou as a teen and even had some early appearances in films and TV shows, enough to send him to LA to pursue fame. While there he signed up for some classes at Santa Monica Community College—including one in glassmaking. Though the waiting list for the class was long, organizers moved his name to the top of the list. And instantly, it was what he wanted to do.
Making glass can involve a variety of techniques, and Johnny has worked his way through all of them. Blown glass is created by inflating molten glass on a rod to form a hollow bubble. Bit work involves attaching bits of glass to that blown glass piece. Liquid glass can be poured into a mold or cast in a kiln. Glass slumping shapes glass into something new with the help of a mold; glass can also be fused to combine multiple sheets of glass into one piece.
Johnny spent three years honing his craft before opening his own studio, Glass by Glass, at his home on the West Coast. He made the studio mobile and took it to craft centers and schools to demonstrate his art. Eventually he landed at Knott’s Berry Farm, creating glass objects and showing his technique to crowds there 100 days a year. “It is a catalyst for interesting people in glass,” he says. “I put on a show and combine my two art forms: performance and glass.”
In between, Glass returned to East Tennessee and discovered one of the country’s best craft programs at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, where he earned a BFA. Later he got a master’s in fine art at Tulane University in New Orleans and established a Tennessee studio at his parents’ home in Rockford, where he produces the pieces he sells throughout the year. He also sells and demonstrates his work at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair each fall.
In addition to the shows he attends, Glass sells his pieces at about 30 retail outlets around the country. “I drive to California every year, and I use that trip to visit new galleries and grow my outlets.”
Though his blown glass pumpkins in an array of colors and patterns pay the bills, Glass most enjoys creating bowls and vases in the Italian style of cane and murine blown glass. “They show off my skills,” he says. The technique involves creating colored patterns or images within the glass, from simple circles to detailed designs, made famous by Venetian glass artists in the 16th century.
Should he gaze into a crystal ball, Glass hopes to see a future in which he’s teaching glassmaking at the college level. “Glass is a dying art form,” he says. “I want to help keep it alive.” Learn more about Johnny and his work at www.glassbyglass.com.