Design New England

Keeping It Glassy

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Mark Reigelman II, New York, NY, Breaking the Bottle Collection, 2011, glass and wood. Private collection.

On a daily basis, we see glass used in menial things such as windows, drinkware, and eyeglasses. But the material takes on new meaning in a work of art. Distinctive pieces sculpted by glass artisans in New England and around the country are featured in Supercool Glass, an exhibit on view at the Shelburne Museum through June 8. It’s one of the first exhibits at the $7.7 Pizzagali Center for Art and Education, which opened last August. (“Of Its Time”, Design New England November/December 2013).

Supercool Glass showcases 19th-century pieces from the museum’s collection alongside contemporary work by artists including Ethan Bond Watts, Gary Bodker, Alyssa Oxley, Stephanie Pender, Mark Reigelman II, Charlotte Potter, Amber Cowan, Madeline Steimle, Bohyun Yoon, Steven and William Ladd, and Kim Harty. Having these pieces side-by-side allows visitors to evaluate the visual progression and technical advancements of glassmaking in America over the course of two centuries.


“Before the development and refinement of plastics in the 20th century, glass was a universal material,” says Kory Rogers, event coordinator and curator of design arts at the museum. “Its unique physical and aesthetic qualities made it the ideal substance for use in virtually every aspect of life, from dining to fashion, from architecture to medicine, from entertainment to marketing. Supercool Glass explores the multifaceted nature of this miraculous material and its manifold uses in daily life, both past and present.”
From the museum’s collection, there’s architectural glass, medical instruments, and beaded costumes. To take working with glass a step further, there are also paintings of glass objects.

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Edwin Romanzo Elmer, Magic Glasses, c. 1891, oil on canvas. Collection of Shelburne Museum.

Contemporary pieces include glass-encrusted chairs, a suit of armor, and sculptures by Eric Franklin influenced by human skulls.

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Eric Franklin, Skull #3 (detail), Portland, Oregon, 2013, flame worked borosilicate glass, ionized neon and mercury, wood, electronics. On loan from the artist.

Standing just 8 inches tall, a glass tricycle by Andy Paiko is cute and somewhat functional. While you won’t see anyone riding one of these down the street, Paiko says that the wheels do actually turn. It’s a model for a larger version Paiko hopes to create in the future.

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Andy Paiko, 8 inch tall glass tricycle.

Supercool Glass, Shelburne Museum, 6000 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, Vermont; exhibit through June 8; shelburnemuseum.org.
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