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Known for its rich history in glass, the Toledo area is already seeing green with the arrival of a national glass conference and its artists in town.
Some of the anticipated 1,100 participants for the five-day event started arriving Wednesday and are estimated to spend $1.5 million while taking in tours or putting on demonstrations related to the Glass Art Society's 42nd conference.
"We've already got a [glass] reputation and this just enhances it," said Diane Zitzelberger, a docent at the Toledo Museum of Art who eyed the colorful, twisted glass beads that adorned Fulvia Notari jewelry housed at the Paula Brown gallery this week.
The society's conference opened Wednesday with the Toledo Day of Glass, for which the public was invited to watch glass-making at four locations. Some Glass Art Society members toured the Libbey Glass factory, the Pilkington Float Glass operation in Rossford, and the Johns Manville plant in Waterville. Others stopped by the Mark Matthews Studio in Sauder Village, or toured the city's architecture and public art.
The first day ended with a reception at the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion and a preview of the Color Ignited: 1962-2012 glass exhibit in the museum's new $3 million Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art, which opens today.
PEACH WEEKENDER: Glass City sparkles this week
Continuing through Saturday night, the conference has drawn more than 1,100 registrants, mostly glass artists. It's being held in Toledo with a nod to the 50th anniversary of the birth of studio glass, which received a hearty kick-start in a Toledo museum garage during two 1962 workshops.
For Kay and Ken Bork, glass collectors from Granville, Ohio, the convention brings people together to enjoy an area's cultural richness.
"Everybody knows the Mud Hens, but not everyone knows glass," Mr. Bork said.
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This appreciation from students and locals alike is what encouraged Simon Morgan-Russell, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bowling Green State University, to support a glassblowing demonstration held there Wednesday.
"Places in the Midwest get a bad rep when it comes to culture," he said. "We have all sorts of interesting opportunities and it's great to celebrate that. ... It's nice that Toledo has this artistic heritage."
While those outside the glass community may not understand the role that Toledo plays in its rich tradition, Kathy Poepple, a glassblower from Houston who attended Robin and Julia Rogers' hot-glass demonstration at Owens Community College, wasn't surprised when she heard the city would host the conference.
"I understood Toledo's role in the development of the studio glass movement," she said.
Events open to the public include Friday's 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Gallery Hop with free shuttle buses between downtown and near-downtown galleries and studios including the museum, and the Fred Wilson lecture, which is at 7 p.m. in the museum's Peristyle Theater.
Also, SeaGate Convention Centre will be open for technical displays and a trade show from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. And art will be sold at a live auction (6 to 7 p.m. Saturday in the Park Inn Ballroom adjacent to the SeaGate Centre) and a silent auction (displayed in the same ballroom 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday with the first table closing at 5:15 p.m. Saturday).
Events are at many spots in northwest Ohio.
As Hiromi Takizawa and Sayaka Suzuki created a rounded glass "stone" with delicate detailing at the front of BGSU's glass studio Wednesday, Koneta Hurlstone sat watching, garbed in her own creative construction: a white T-shirt with a black silhouette of a bearded figure emblazoned with the words Hurlstone's Hellions Now and Forever.
The shirt was one of 40 that Ms. Hurlstone, a former glassblower who now resides in Toledo, created to honor her husband, Robert "Bud" Hurlstone, who passed away in 2005. In 1978, Mr. Hurlstone, an internationally exhibited glassblower, started the glass program at BGSU. His students affectionately referred to themselves as Hurlstone's Hellions.
For Ms. Hurlstone, the exhibits scattered throughout the duration of the conference offer an opportunity for artists and the general public to respect the fine-art component of the medium.
"A lot of the United States only knows one glassblower, but there's so much more to it -- it's a fine and exquisite art and there's so much diversity," she said. "Maybe younger kids will see the exhibitions and decide that instead of a hobby it can be a career."
It's the potential to explore a career in glassblowing that attracted Taylor Wilkes, a BGSU sophomore, to attend Takizawa and Suzuki's demonstration. Although the Chardon, Ohio, native described herself as a more traditional artist with experience in drawing and painting, Ms. Wilkes saw the demonstration as an opportunity to prepare for an upcoming glass course she'll take.
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As the artists toyed with the shape of molten glass, Ms. Wilkes sketched their figures, capturing their body language.
"It's the time process that attracts me to glass," she said. "The time involved makes the final product that much more appreciable."
The Schmidt-Messenger Studio near downtown Toledo also attracted visitors Wednesday.
There were pioneers such as Fritz Dreisbach (a glass master wearing a red T-shirt with the Turkish flag); Richard Ritter (declared a "Living Treasure of North Carolina" in 2011), and Henry Halem who started and ran the glass program at Kent State University for decades, along with up-and-comers, such as 24-year-old Ian Messenger Schmidt, whose glassblowing on cruise ships blends art, entertainment, and education.
They and about 100 other artists, students, and fans of glass floated in and out of the breezy studio/gallery in an old building near the High Level Bridge where Jack Schmidt and Shawn Messenger make their living melting and forming glass and metals.
While Mr. Dreisbach autographed reprints of a 1970 glass-workshop poster with a thick-tipped silver pen, Mr. Ritter demonstrated what he's famous for: murrini glass in which different colors of molten glass are layered around a core that gets heated, stretched into a rod, and when cooled, sliced, with each piece holding a cross-section of color.
Jack Schmidt and Shawn Messenger returned to Toledo from California in 1981 and rented space not far from their Morris Street studio. After 20 years, it was time to buy; they and a partner purchased a string of eight old buildings and spent two years rehabbing their current workshop. Each of them have a nearly full-time assistant.
Mr. Schmidt's work, selling for $12,000 to $40,000 each, is owned by the Toledo museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Chuba Institute in Japan. His methods include blowing and casting glass, which he often forms with steel and stainless steel.
For 22 years, Ms. Messenger has specialized in millefiori glass (Italian for "thousand flowers"), in paperweights and vessels. Her clear orbs have interiors studded with tiny brilliant colors and typically sell for up to $1,000.
The recession that began in 2008 has been difficult for them, but over their careers, they've made enough to own a South Toledo home, and put two sons through Maumee Valley Country Day School and college. Ian, their elder son, intended to be a clay artist when he left town in 2006 for Rochester Institute of Technology's School for American Crafts.
"I was working with my dad and he said, 'You just need to do it,' so I changed my major to glass in my sophomore year. I was able to pick it up pretty quickly," said Mr. Messenger Schmidt, who earned his allowance as a kid cleaning his parents' studio.
Contact Madeline Buxton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.