For the past nine years near the end of summer, I make the pilgrimage to Istanbul, Turkey to teach a class of glass students and enthusiasts in the Rob Stern approach to creating. An hour north of the city in a hidden farming valley on the rim of the Black sea thrives the renowned school for glass Cam Ocagi or in English, The Glass Furnace.
This is a wonderful place where new dreams of glassmaking can be realized during our two-week stay at what is essentially a summer camp for artists, where the top international artists/teachers come to share their methods and philosophy.
This is a sculpture I created that was meant to literally take a closer look closer at yourself through the glass. I always use the time there to free my mind and coax the group to a positive and ambitious place.
The most interesting thing for me is the mix of international students that come with a common goal in mind to improve and right away they quickly become aware that they are in for a unique approach to working and learning. Our students this year came from US, Turkey, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, and India and really hit it off working and playing well together.
This year I brought along one of my great friends and glass master from the Czech Republic Jiri “Pacha” Pachinek to teach with me. Aside from being an encyclopedia of glass, he is the big lovable teddy bear in the purple shirt and can make everybody smile and enjoy learning.
The first thing we did was to take everybody’s picture and mix the features up which pushed the group in motion and quickly set the humorous tone.
Then it was time to get to work as Pacha and I showcase various techniques and bring everyone up to speed on the rigorous schedule and vast facilities at our disposal. Next comes a series of exercises and assignments aimed at urging students to work together in problem solving and experimentation. The students are always anxious to push their limits and tackle projects beyond their means so the teamwork atmosphere always yields surprising results.
Over the years I have created outdoor sculptures around the campus because there are such beautiful surroundings and the students also take this opportunity to install their works in nature. Pacha and the class help me realize a sculpture I have been wanting to make for several years installed in a grouping of pillars. Everyone gets inspired when we accomplish something like this and the excitement for the possibilities is elevated.
Once we gained momentum they were off and running with ideas, and each of them created some great finished pieces that were set about the campus and discussed amongst the group.
I am always inspired by what all of these different characters can come up with from what is essentially melted sand. It is a great reward to see these students raise the bar with their work in response to our program and guidance.
One of our final projects is that everyone creates a personalized message in a bottle with personal and information about the school. We then take a fun boat trip out into the Black Sea to release them. They can float to the shores many countries and have been found in the past.
The end of the summer has come and its time for all of us to head back to home and get to work. I know I’m inspired by this great class and will have newfound energy and inspiration to generate new ideas and work. Thanks everybody and see you next year!
For more info about Rob visit http://www.robsternartglass.com/