"the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery"
January 9, 2013 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Paul Stankard is a virtuoso with glass. Unlike most of his contemporaries in the studio glass movement, Stankard started as a tradesman, a scientific glassmaker, and his work is not blown, but instead is flameworked. He creates miniature botanicals—at first, exact representations of existing flowers, and now, credible but imaginary plants, complete with human roots. His work, and his day to day life, is influenced a great deal by Walt Whitman. Stankard says, "I'm not wise enough, not educated enough to experience Whitman at his absolute fullest; I have to work at it." And he works at it through glass.
posted by ocherdraco (12 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
A few links I meant to put in, but managed to miss in my mess of tabs: Stankard has one of the most succinct artist statements I've seen. The 11-minute film "Paul Stankard: Beauty Beyond Nature" provides an overview of his life and work.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2013

His voice in the video is incredibly comforting.
posted by goodglovin77 at 9:43 AM on January 9, 2013

Leaves of Grass. It's Leaves of Grass.
posted by iotic at 9:43 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

That is a great artist statement. Lovely work, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:44 AM on January 9, 2013

posted by Melismata at 9:56 AM on January 9, 2013

Wow. Exquisite.
posted by Fig at 9:59 AM on January 9, 2013

To everyone who's amazed by this, I recommend the Harvard Museum of Natural History's Glass Flowers exhibition.
It has life-sized replicas of almost a thousand plants and flowers, and in many cases it's impossible to distinguish them from the real thing. They were made by two German glass makers, father and son, and the purpose was primarily educational: There was no preservation method that didn't make the specimen lose its color and shape, so glass imitations was the best thing for students to get familiar with species they couldn't get hold of fresh.
posted by springload at 10:03 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think that scientific glassmakers exist anymore. The last one I knew worked for the Chemistry Department of the "Universita' di Padova" in the late sixties: he gifted me with a Pyrex Nativity Creche one and a half inches tall that I still treasure. They were all artists.
posted by francesca too at 12:20 PM on January 9, 2013

I don't think that scientific glassmakers exist anymore [...]
posted by francesca too

That has been my experience as well. I tried to find a course where I could learn the basics of it, but found nothing locally. I share a lab with some Russian low-temperature physicists and they had glass-making as a mandatory subject in their schooling. One of the guys is apparently very good, and has made his own glass cryostats and diffusion pumps. He doesn't get to practice his skills anymore though. There is no demand and no equipment left.
posted by springload at 12:45 PM on January 9, 2013

The exhibition where I was introduced to Paul Stankard's work, travelling and currently at Chattanooga's Hunter Museum (and which is still up, by the way, until April—go see it!) has examples of Stankard's scientific glasswork. It's complicated! And beautiful! And seems extremely specialized. Is it just that I've been in labs that don't require such specialized glasswork, or do scientific labs these days not require it as much because of other advances in technology and materials?
posted by ocherdraco at 12:54 PM on January 9, 2013

There are scientific glassmakers around. There's a woman at the University of Pennsylvania and until last year when he retired there was a guy (he's pictured on the bottom right of the page) at City College of New York. Hugo used to give classes, but hadn't in a few years when I interacted with him. He is a character.

The woman at Penn, I think has family members who also do glass.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:16 PM on January 9, 2013

There's also the listings of the American Scientific Glassblower's Society.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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