On Jan. 8 and 9, professional glass artist Jason Christian presented a series of lectures and demonstrations open for any students interested in glassblowing. Christian’s experience of working with glass for more than 20 years includes working under glass masters such as Dale Chihuly and Lino Tagliapietra, and teaching at several colleges and universities.
Christain’s passion for working with glass arose after an accident in his youth at his family’s scrapyard that left his hands badly burned. The process of overcoming the resulting fear of fire turned into an appreciation for the fluidity of hot glass and the skill required to manipulate it.
“It has a lot to do with the burns on my hands. That fear of fire at first, I remember taking that first gather of glass like ‘Oh my god, am I gonna get burned again?’ and then just conquering that had a lot to do with it. My ability to move with the material felt natural and rewarding,” Christian said.
Working for esteemed studios and artists gave Christian experience and reputation, but he also wanted to express his own creativity. Today, in addition to working as the head gaffer for Chihuly and Tagliapietra, his personal studio is based at his home in Seattle and his work is represented at seven galleries throughout the United States.
“I had these opportunities to make stuff for other people and build up my skill, but I always had this yearning to make my own work. It was really important to me, almost at any cost,” Christian said.
A predominant feature of Christian’s work is his use of the reticello technique, creating an almost chain-link netted appearance in the glass. This technique requires concentration to execute correctly, contrasting with the unpredictable nature of glass and the urge of a beginning artist to make everything perfect, which Christian attributes as one of the most important things he learned from Chihuly and Tagliapietra.
“I think that’s what really swayed me — that natural movement and natural form of the materials from both of those people, and letting the glass do what it wants to do,” Christian said.
Christian was the second visiting glass artist scheduled by Assistant Glass Professor Chad Holliday, with Eoin Breadon having visited the college in December.
“In this case, we actually had a few students come to me and specifically ask to bring Jason Christian. Being that I have worked with him for quite a long time, it was easy for me to reach out. In this case, I also cooperated with my colleagues at Ball State University to share in the costs,” Holliday said.
According to Holliday, students having the opportunity to be exposed to professional artists creates an environment where students can learn the realities and logistics of making a living from their craft.
“While in school, students are fairly sheltered from these realities so it is our duty as teachers to offer them every chance for them to work with other professionals, get others’ point of view and offer the students a chance to ask questions of these artists. Additionally, these artists should help reinforce what is taught in the classroom and also offer supplements to the classroom experience; for example more advanced techniques or individual experiences,” Holliday said.