The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern
Ty's Take

Ty’s Take | Rob Stern & The Power of Collaboration

Everyone has the power to be creative and do something amazing. If you’re having trouble getting started on a creative project you might consider bringing someone else on board…

In my last entry “Making Tyles and Pyroprints” I described the fun we had creating a unique and productive process we recently collaborated on. Reflecting on it, I remember back to some of the first collaborations we did together in the 80s.

In Ty’s one room apartment we had carefully carved potatoes into stamps we used for patterning bright colored paint on our custom clothing…oh yeah you guessed it there was splatter paint on the Chuck Taylors too, but the matching blazer tied it all together. Our collaboration came naturally and the energy we shared was apparent everywhere: our attire, our skateboard ramp and Frisbee sessions.

The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern

Sometimes partnering up on a project reveals unexpected connections that can lead to new experiences and opportunities. It always helps to try and see things in a different light. Sometimes two takes on an idea generates a multifaceted approach and separating tasks can help with managing time and expediting an outcome. I recently returned from completing a relatively massive collaborative undertaking referred to as the “Centerpieces” project. For the last few summers I have helped to lead a group of professional glassblowers to create over 150 unique hand made sculptures that are the table centerpieces for auction at an annual fundraiser gala event for the Pilchuck Glass School.

The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern

Each year a designer is selected through a competition and an eclectic group of chosen craftspeople called the “Poleturners” create these pieces at the dreamy Pilchuck campus located on a beautiful tree farm in the foothills of the Cascade mountains north of Seattle, WA.

The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern

I have been attending the school for the last 25 summers… you could say I’m a “child of the chuck”. I was the chosen designer for the centerpieces in 2011 and here are the poleturners with some of the centerpieces we made together. Like Ty, I’m a natural team leader and the two and a half weeks the poleturners spend together has become a personal collaborative exercise which extends well beyond the glass making and into team building activities such as the human pyramid, slip’n slide, and tie-dye party.

The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern
The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern
The Power of Collaboration by Rob Stern

This year we were making the “Crystal” sculptures designed by my friend Lynn Everett Read. He was amazed by the collaborative effort put forth to make the centerpieces. A project this size requires a lot of hands and both Lynn and I gained so much from the rapport between everyone and it in turn grew the potential for success.


I realize that this anecdote is a bit utopian but please take away the idea of collaboration and teamwork. The next time you daydream up and set out to mastermind a creative project try to reach out to someone you want to work with. Run it by them and find a way to bring them in to share in the creative process. Set a goal, communicate, and work together. Good luck!

Helen Keller quote

For more samples of my work, check out

Rob Stern

Over his 25 year career in glass, Rob Stern has traveled, lived, and studied extensively and has worked with the most accomplished glass artists and masters throughout the world. His work has been installed, exhibited, and collected in Europe, Asia and United States. He was a professor at the University of Miami Glass program from 1997 – 2004 and was most recently a visiting professor at the Glass Department at the University of Texas, Arlington in 2010. Since 2004 Rob has operated his own studios in the Wynnwood arts district of Miami, where he and his team create and execute all aspects from design to production and installation.

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