GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
Glass Art Society

GAS Executive Director, Brandi Clark in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

network organisation 

1. Firstly, can you introduce Glass Art Society (GAS)?

The Glass Art Society is a US-based organization striving to connect the global glass community through in-person events, online programming, and opportunities for artists.

2. GAS was founded in 1971. How has the organisation and craft more widely changed over that period?

I would say the most significant change in the past 50 years has been our transition from an organization focused solely on the American Studio Glass Movement to one that embraces and celebrates all ways of working with all types of glass all over the world! Another more recent change has been our commitment to connecting the glass community in a variety of ways all year rather than focusing all of our efforts on a conference once a year that not everyone can attend.

Audrey Handler and Beth Anne Haner

3. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

I think we will see a further blurring of geographic lines. During the pandemic, people have been spending a lot more time online. Galleries and collectors have been introduced to new artists, artists have connected with each other in new ways and have been introduced to new ways of working, and everyone has been making plans. Once the restrictions are lifted, I believe we will see people rushing to make all of their virtual connections and plans a reality in person.

4. Do you think projects such as ISGNE make a difference to European and International glass? And if so, why?

I do. Glass has such a passionate following, but it is relatively small compared to other mediums. Personally, I think partnerships and projects like ISGNE are valuable for our entire community. They broaden the reach and multiply the impact of individual efforts to increase visibility and engagement.

5. Has the relationship with European glass makers changed over recent years with the conference in Venice and then the ambitions of Sweden?

GAS has seen a tremendous increase in European activity and engagement in the past few years. GAS has been an international organization for thirty years, but it wasn’t until after the Murano conference that we repositioned the organization to embrace the international glass community fully. Our efforts in Sweden were not merely about building one conference; it was the start of our more inclusive focus on the broader glass community. Before the pandemic, we had plans to expand all of our programs internationally. Obviously, those plans have been paused, but they haven’t changed, and we are anxiously waiting for the pandemic to be over so we can begin moving forward with those plans again.

6. In your opinion, what are the positive differences of the glass sector in the USA from Europe? Can we use this to an advantage to foster growth across the international community?

Glass seems to be viewed as much more accessible in Europe, while the US may have more individuals with large glass collections. I think the US can take note of how glass is positioned in Europe and use that model to cultivate new and younger collectors. At the same time, organizations like GAS can help European artists gain exposure in the US and help artists make connections and develop relationships with collectors.

Conference Tour

GAS, 2019

7. Tell us something we definitely won’t know about GAS or your role.

I think the most significant thing people don’t know about GAS is that we do so much more than plan a conference each year, and we are always looking for ways to add programming that will better serve our members and community. We plan smaller regional events, large and small conversations about topics affecting the glass community, provide financial support for members in need, make connections between artists and collectors, and document what is happening within the community. Our staff of five and a volunteer Board of eighteen work extraordinarily hard to ensure our entire membership is represented and served as best as possible.

8. How has Covid-19 affected GAS members?

GAS members have been affected in much the same way as other segments of the population, and it differs quite significantly depending on where they are in the world. People’s businesses are suffering, and limited human connection is taking its toll, but people are looking for ways to be creative and adapt. Our members are still very actively looking for ways to connect and support one another, which continues to inspire me.

9. What’s been keeping GAS busy during lockdown?

The pandemic has affected GAS in much the same way it’s been affecting organizations and businesses worldwide. Our primary focus has been moving our programming online and keeping the glass community connected while they can’t be together physically. It has also given us time to reflect on our future and make plans to serve the community better and continue the expansion of our programming.

10. Have you noticed a change in what customers and collectors are interested in buying? Do you think this pandemic will change how and what we buy?

Collectors and artists alike have been extremely generous and supportive in the past year. Collectors are still buying, but many artists are also starting to produce smaller works that appeal to new collectors and other artists. I may be overly optimistic, but I think we may see a new generation of collectors come out of this pandemic.

GAS, 2019

11. What is GAS doing to support other ways to engage the broader creative industries and art sector?

We are actively working to engage individuals from other segments of the art sector in both our conferences and our year-round programming. We think there is much to learn and from different creative perspectives, and we see a significant benefit in opening our arms to these other segments rather than keeping our community insular.

12. How resilient is the glass sector at this time?

The artistic community and the glass community, especially, are incredibly resilient, but I don’t think we can predict to what our sector will look like after the pandemic. Things are extraordinarily challenging for all of us right now. We are seeing a tremendous level of support in our community – artists, collectors, and donors have all shown incredible levels of support. I hope we see the world getting back to normal before that wanes.

13. In what ways do you think technology and the digital pivot will continue to push craft, and vice versa?

I think it will definitely continue to play a larger role than it did a year ago, but I think we will see it swing back closer to where it was for a while once the pandemic is over. Due to physical limitations, we have all faced over the past year, people have become accustomed to virtually collaborating and connecting with other artists all over the world. A lot of artists have also started using technology as a medium, and we can expect that to continue as it is just one more tool that can be used to create their vision.

14. You communicate with artists, studios and educators internationally. What is the prevailing mood currently?

Overall, people are mainly missing being together. Some people have been able to get back into their studios and a lot of classes have resumed in some form, so people are still being creative, but people are longing to travel and be together.

15. Where can people find out more information on GAS’s work and opportunities?

We have a full range of programs – from free and open to the public to those costing a small fee or reserved for GAS members – and you

can find information on all of them at glassart.org, on our social media channels, and through our monthly e-newsletter.

Goblet Grab, 2017

GAS, NORFOLK

GAS, NORFOLK

Nadege Desgenetez

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