Joyce Scott Exhibit: Maryland to Murano

I was fortunate to be in New York City at the same time an exhibit of Joyce Scott’s work was on display at the Museum of Art and Design.
Part retrospective and part new work, Maryland to Murano included Scott’s work from the 1990’s and newer work including some breathtaking glass pieces she created on the island of Murano with the help of the resident artisans.


Scott is a story teller and and she uses beads to convey her message  the way a writer uses words or a dancer uses gestures.


Or the way a quilt maker uses fabric!   Think about it.  Scott’s Mother, Elizabeth Talford Scott, was a quilt maker whose fabric compositions were rich with narrative and personal and historical references.  The cultural and familial influences definitely carried over from Mother to Daughter.


So why did Joyce Scott go to Murano?  The exhibition catalog says that Scott did glass blowing at Pilchuck, Haystack Mountain School of Craft and Penland, and that her three dimensional bead work continued to increase in size.  I suppose a stint in Murano was the next step. Scott has always stuck me as an artist looking to push in new directions.  She seems fearless.


The work she produced in Murano is was not like anything I have seen before. Take a look at Buddha.  The black and white of the face appears to be melted beads,  The outer  bead work is textural.  The rest of the piece is blown glass.    It is slightly larger than life sized and I could not take my eyes off of it.

 Fortunately for us, we can see Scott talk about her work her influences and watch her in the process of creating  similar pieces on this video clip from the PBS Series  Craft in America

Here are some more pictures from the exhibition

Meetup in Olde City: Kathleen Dustin, Artistic Development, and the Clowns of Murano

The first Friday of each month is prime gallery trolling time in Philadelphia. I joined some Greater Philadelphia Polymer Art Meetup friends last Friday for a trip to the opening of Kathleen Dustin’s show at the Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia. I took some pictures of our gathering with Kathleen’s gracious permission, but the SD card on my cell phone went South on me so I have nothing to share. If you click on the link, you can see some of the outstanding pieces currently on display.

I don’t know which was more fun-having Kathleen pull pieces out of the case and explaining how she constructed them or listening to her and Beading Yoda discuss their design philosophies. By the way, checkout Kathleen’s newly-designed web site here.

A few years ago, Kathleen gave a wonderful presentation to the Philadelphia Guild  on the evolution of her work.   Which got me to thinking about why it is always a sheer delight to see her work.  Not only is it technically brilliant but there is always a new aspect to it that pushes her body of work to a different level.  Read this Polymer Clay Daily post on the changing focus of her work from representational to abstract.  Then check out these links  from the Polymer Art ArchiveEvolution of Polymer ArtArticles by Kathleen Dustin on the Polymer Art Archive, and Turning Blue into Gold.

Later at a restaurant debriefing session over Italian food and wine at nearby BYOB  La Locanda Del Ghiottone and a bottle of wine from  Pinot Boutique, several Meetup members reminisced about traveling to Venice and to Murano. We all agreed that while Italian glass was beautiful, some of the objects tourists bring back from Murano deserve a place in the permanent glass collection of the Museum of Ugly. I mean seriously.

Don’t forget  Bead Fest Philadelphia this weekend!  Click here for more information.

The Glass of Murano and Venice

I have always loved beads. Like fire, beads hold a primal fascination. They are part of every society and culture. There is evidence that humankind could have been making beads 100,000 years ago.

The Venetian City State became a major trading hub and a center of glass manufacturing in the 1300’s and the  earliest Venetian beads are thought to date from this time. Most of the glass work was done then and now on the little island of Murano just a short boat ride from Venice. The Venetian government moved glass production to Murano in to protect the City of Venice fire which was a constant danger in medieval towns where most of the buildings were constructed of straw and wood.

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Venice for the winter holiday this year. And because I love glass and beads, I had to go to Murano.

Murano is where the African Trading beads that I have collected since I was a teenager were made for colonial trade in Africa. The lovely, worn trading beads you are likely to find  today did not start out looking that way.  The beads really were used in trade and acquired a worn, matte finish from years of use much like coins.
It was fascinating to look at old sample cards of millefiori beads at the Murano Glass Museum. The beads looked shiny and new only because they sat in showrooms for decades and were only used as samples.  If you go to Venice,  be sure to make a trip to the Murano Glass Museum. 

I had always heard that you could go into the glass factories and watch items being made.
A friendly store proprietor from a glass making family (and glass manufacturing and bead making seems to be a family endeavor) 
set me straight  about these tours.  He said that  the lamp workers and blowers did not like to have  people around while they worked (I can understand why) and that the demonstrations  you will see on Murano  were cursory and rehearsed, and not illustrative of the way they really worked.  

Since I’ve seem a lot of real glass making of real glass and do lamp work myself,  I decided to skip the demonstrations and drool at the glass instead. Here are some pictures.

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There’s even more!  The Ercole Moretti website is a treasure trove of information and eye candy.  They published a history of  their company and Venetian glass and I am having a lot of fun reading it.

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