Studio artist Dean Allison is our August Artist in Residence at The Henry Ford. Looking forward to a week of new ideas and exploration, Dean joins our artists in the Greenfield Village Glass Shop Aug. 13-17. Follow him on Instagram and learn more about his background below.
Tell us a little bit about you and your work. My work deals with portraiture and documenting people in glass. I’m interested in the figure and physical details that translate identity and the human condition. Most of my work is cast and utilizes molds and processes like bronze casting.
How did you get started with glassblowing? I took an elective in glass when I was an undergraduate in college. I wasn’t interested in 3D work at the time, but that swiftly changed, and glass became a material I grew to love.
What piece are you most proud of that you’ve created to date? That is a difficult question because each piece has differing challenges and obstacles. The most ambitious piece was titled “The Boxer.” It is a piece that I worked on for more than three years, ultimately made in five parts. I designed and built specialized equipment to make the piece. I mixed and melted all the glass from scratch and learned a great deal from the many processes involved.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? People, memories, conversations, human interaction, and social concerns.
What are you most looking forward to as being an Artist in Residence this year? Creating a new body of work that involves experimenting with the figure on a smaller scale and finding inspiration in gesture and form.
This month we’re excited to welcomeShelley Muzylowski Allen to the Greenfield Village Glass Shop at The Henry Ford as our July Artist in Residence. You can see Shelley in action July 9-13; get to know a little more about Shelley in this Q&A.
Tell us a little bit about you and your work. I was born in Northern Manitoba in a small mining town. I believe that its open skies and barren landscape fostered imagination. I spent a lot of time outside in the long summer light playing outside - on the railroad tracks and on large rock slabs, sometimes finding fossilized stone. During the extreme winter days, my sister and I would dig tunnels through the snow and at night, I would watch the aurora borealis create light up shapes on the snow and on our curtains inside. Here I started to paint at a very early age and eventfully studied the medium at the Emily Carr Institute of Art.
My work then and now was directly influenced from my experiences and environment that surrounded me. I layer glass powder colors and use a reverse carving technique to achieve detail, texture and a painterly style on my blown sculpture. I hope that by leaving ambiguity and creating gesture in the recognizable natural forms, that they become universal, creating their own story and sparking an emotion or a memory in the viewer.
How did you get started with glassblowing? After I finished my BFA, I worked at a nonprofit arts center in Vancouver, B.C. One of my co-workers saw my paintings and suggested that my work would translate really well to glass. She had been to the Pilchuck Glass School and gave me their catalogue. I had only seen perfume bottles and functional ware being created on the pipe, so I didn’t understand why she thought I should go there. I applied out of curiosity.
The second I walked in the Pilchuck hot shop my life changed completely. I became obsessed with the medium and that fall drove to Seattle to take lessons at night and then back to Vancouver the same night. In retrospect I realize that because I was so open to and intensely focused on working and learning this medium the path I was to follow unfolded before me.
I was extremely fortunate that both Rik Allen and Karen Willenbrink Johnsen (friendships that began during the Pilchuck session) asked me to assist them during that winter season. A couple of years later, Rik and I got married. I was regularly assisting Karen which led me to work with Bill and the Morris team. I was in awe of and had great respect for the passion and fearlessness that every member of that team had working with glass. It is a way of seeing and working that I strive to continue in my own shop and work.
What piece are you most proud of that you’ve created to date? One of my most recent pieces, See, Swan, that is currently on exhibit at the Habatat Galleries, in Royal Oak, Mich., and focuses on a nearly life-size swan and its reflection, has opened up a new dialogue and direction with glass and my subject matter.
Focusing on a local and magnificent natural phenomena — the northern migration of the swans through the Skagit Valley — See, Swan, is a meditation on this fragile existence.
See, Swan (2018) Blown, hand-sculpted, and engraved glass, steel, 39”w x 80”H x 12”d
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Inspiration is all around me in the natural world. I watch the weather and the seasons, the flora and the fauna, and how they respond to each other and connect to us as humans.
What are you most looking forward to as being an Artist in Residence this year? I am looking forward to working and being in the presence of such a magnificent and important collection of history. Stepping out of my familiar work environment, I can let go of my everyday routine stimulating and allowing space for growth and ideas. I’m excited to work with more transparent pieces utilizing the shop’s color pots and am designing some new pieces regarding this. I’m also really looking forward to working with The Henry Ford’s team and exchanging skill sets and ideas.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work. I was born in a small town in Ohio in 1946. I received a BFA in Sculpture from the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio in 1969 and an MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1973. I studied sculpture at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, Maine 1967 and glass at the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio from 1970-71.
I am Professor Emeritus, College for Creative Studies. I taught at CCS for 40 years. Currently I indulge myself in the studio, conceptualizing and creating art.
Fire began to dominate my art in 1969, the first time I tried to blow glass. As a sculptor, I was forging steel into “form.” Molten glass was an alternative: a hot, quick and scary medium to make art. Once I immersed myself in the glass process, the material became a “fine art” medium for me.
As my glass skills evolved and I explored a new process, I created the Image Vessel Series in 1976. In this series, I “painted” using color and line, and “sculpted” to produce a three-dimensional image through a blown-glass vessel.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created? Not one favorite piece; however, each step in the evolution of my work has produced several pieces that I believe interpret what I am trying to say.
Why do you enjoy working with glass? The three-dimensional world is reflected light and shadow. Glass adds transparency and translucency. Together this considerably expands the vocabulary of sculpture.
Where do you find your inspiration for your creations? Inspiration comes from the “human figure” along with its movement and stance.
What are you most looking forward to while being an Artist in Residence at The Henry Ford? I look forward to working with the highly skilled artisans that make up the Henry Ford glass studio. I hope to produce a three- dimensional interpretation of my Image Vessel Series.
Artist in Residence Hiroshi Yamano at work in the Greenfield Village Glass Shop.
Art in action. It’s one thing to admire a sculpture made of glass through the display case, studying the technique and artistry from afar. How do you take such art appreciation to the next level? Put it into action?
That’s the question Charles Sable, curator of decorative arts, and Joshua Wojick, master glassblower at the Greenfield Village Glass Shop, pondered as they thought about what’s next for The Henry Ford’s studio glass collection.
“We wanted to broaden our involvement with studio glass,” said Sable, the curator behind of The Henry Ford’s two new glass galleries, which feature studio glass. “We didn’t want the collection to become static. We wanted to express our commitment to studio glass, and glass in general, in ways that would keep our visitors engaged long into the future.”
Added Wojick, “We wanted to continue to build on the studio glass collection, build on its connection to The Henry Ford and create more of a story — our own story — that would be integrated into each object.”
That story’s next chapter comes in the form of an artist-in-residence program. This spring and summer, the Glass Shop hosts a quartet of renowned glass artists, as talented as they are different in their approaches. The program is a first of its kind for the Glass Shop.
In May, Japanese glass artist Hiroshi Yamano kick-started the program, spending five days in the Glass Shop working with The Henry Ford’s artisans and giving visitors a close-up view of his creative process. Formally trained sculptor and glass artist Herb Babcock will also take up temporary residence in the village, along with Marc Petrovic (several of his pieces are part of The Henry Ford’s Bachmann studio glass collection) and technical glassblower Janusz Pozniak.
“We wanted artists that were willing to share their individual artistic process with the public at large,” said Wojick. “Within our shop, we show the public mostly early American glass. This program opens up our studio for the first time, really giving us a chance to show visitors how contemporary artists work, implement designs, collaborate and meld concepts into the physical.”
The pièce de résistance of the program — each artist will leave behind a one-of-a-kind finished piece that will undoubtedly add to the evolving story of The Henry Ford’s glass collection.