Canada’s Glass Schools: A Class Act

May 1, 2010

Jamie McDonald Gray

Robert Geyer at ACAD, photo by Jeff Rodier

From the growing variety and multitude of talented people evident in the Canadian glass scene, you’d think Canada has a glass school in every major city churning out master glass craftspeople with factory efficiency.  Not so.  Canada has only three schools providing a focus on glass technique.  And each of these cuts loose only a handful of graduates every year.  What is it then that makes glass students stick to their chosen medium in higher numbers and go on to be great representatives of Canada on the world glass scene?  Is it any particular school’s exit strategy?  Ex-school support?  Glass community networking and mentoring?  Is it simply an extreme love of the craft?  It’s worthwhile to examine what makes each of our great glass schools tick.

Firstly, it’s important to note that there is no doubt whatsoever that there are many glass artists and craftspeople who have never set foot within institutionalized art education, and yet are nevertheless making interesting work, providing great teaching, and being key contributors to networking in their communities.  That’s a given.  Passion and commitment to our medium does not require formalized education.  However, a small handful of people in Canada choose each year to pursue a structured, academic method of learning glass techniques to the exclusion of all else.  In order to provide an in-depth report on these, three students, one from each of Canada’s glass schools, have been polled.  Alexandre Hupe at Espace Verre, Jen Van Herten at Sheridan College, and Jeff Rodier at the Alberta College of Art + Design have all contributed key information on the current state of affairs in their schools’ glass departments.

Espace Verre, Montreal

John Paul Robinson and David Goranitis pull cane at Espace Verre while Alfred Engerer looks on.

Montreal is home to Espace Verre, founded in 1983 by a collective headed up by glass masters Ronald Labelle and François Houdé.  In 1989, Espace VERRE joined up with the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal and so now offers a Diploma of College Studies (DEC) in fine crafts with a glass option.  Espace Verre is the only school in Canada where the focus is entirely on glass.

Espace Verre occupies Montreal's historic Fire Station 21 built in 1912.

Alexandre Hupe, Espace Verre student representative to the Glass Art Association of Canada, says the atmosphere is very positive because everyone there loves what they do.  There is much shared curiosity and discussion, with technical questions answered freely by anyone who has the information.  Teamwork is strong and the students are free to choose projects that interest them for any particular technique being taught.  Graduating students show as a group at the end of the year at a local gallery.  Also at the end of each year, the students’ work is celebrated with a Journée Critique (Critique Day) in which students exhibit their final projects, and both students and instructors weigh in with comments in order to help everyone else with their artistic development.  The school has a solid administrative team headed up by Christian Poulin.  Alexandre says that the school technician, François Perrault, is integral to the success of the program.  Fundraising activities assist the students to attend functions such as the GAAC conference.  It’s exciting that the conference will be hosted by Espace Verre this year.

A Familiar Glow, photo by Jessie Trott

Sheridan College, Oakville

Sheridan photo by Jessie Trott

The glass department at Sheridan College is part of the Craft and Design Program, which is part of the School of Animation, Arts and Design.  Current student Jen Van Herten says that the program is evolving in exciting ways. While Dan Crichton was certainly a central character to the original development of the Sheridan glass program, today’s students would likely point to Koen Vanderstukken as a major influence.  Koen came to Sheridan from Belgium, bringing with him an extensive knowledge of teaching, working with glass, working internationally, and working collaboratively.  Under his guidance, the program has adopted a sharper focus on content and quality.  He calls on each of his students to challenge what they believe about art history, and to push the boundaries of what is being done in the art world today.

Jen says that she believes the best part about the glass program at Sheridan is the breadth of artistic focus.  While the program has historically been focused around glass blowing and the hot shop, a new strategy has allowed for students to focus on their own areas of specialty.  This can now include kiln forming, flameworking, sand casting / hot casting, engraving and coldworking.  Students are encouraged to think as seriously about concept as technique.  And Sheridan’s knowledgeable faculty is always on hand to advise students on the most effective way of creating their work.

Sheridan’s glass students have opportunities to show their work a minimum of twice per year within the school’s own gallery facilities. Those in their graduating year have even more opportunities to exhibit, both within and outside the school environment, including galleries in Toronto and Hamilton.  This is just one way in which Sheridan provides its graduates the necessary tools for success upon graduation.

Alberta College of Art + Design, Calgary

ACAD photo by Ward Bastian

Calgary is a bit of a dichotomy.  A growing and evolving city of more than a million people, it has nevertheless preserved its small-town feel.  Jeff Rodier, ACAD student representative to GAAC, says that that outlook is reflected well at ACAD, where the studios are filled with a friendly, helpful vibe.  The glass community is small but strongly connected both within the school and to the overall glass scene outside of it.  This is largely due to both the regular return of glass alumni to the college as visiting artists as well as the influx of international glass artists-in-residence.  The exciting diversity this provides offers a variety of challenges for the students, pushing them to new limits in concept, design and technique.  This year alone, the glass department welcomed Dante Marioni, Paul Marioni, CUD (John Drury and Robbie Miller), and Carrie Iverson as short-term artists-in-residence, and Jane Bruce has been in residence for the full winter term helping mentor this year’s graduates through their final projects and out the door.  The faculty and technicians of the glass department are a cast of key players in their own right in the glass world, providing a wide spectrum of expertise to the students.

ACAD’s glass department was founded by Norman Faulkner in the late 1970’s, where it began as a sub-set of the ceramics department.  Jeff notes that the glass department still shares the same floor in the college as the ceramics, sculpture, and print media departments, who make great neighbours.  The first graduate of the program was Marty Kaufman in 1982.  ACAD became a degree-granting institution in 1995, putting into place a four-year BFA program making ACAD the only school in Canada offering a BFA in glass.

Jeff says that yearly events such as the ever-popular Glass Olympics, Mug Nights, the BBQ, the Hotshop Roast, and SmartNight, serve to bring the students, faculty and alumni together as a community to have purposeful fun.  Some of those events serve as fund-raisers, which help raise money so that students can be subsidized for travel expenses to international glass schools and conferences.  The students show both in groups and individually and everyone celebrates when someone is recognized with a grant, award or other honours.  The glass community both within the school and outside of it is close-knit and supportive.

ACAD photo by Jeff Rodier

With only three glass schools across the width and breadth of our great country, you might expect competition to be fierce, but no.  Competition does indeed exist but just like Espace Verre’s Journée Critiques, Sheridan’s collaborative shows, and ACAD’s Glass Olympics it’s friendly, cooperative and encouraging.  There is definitely pride of school but not to the exclusion of an implicit acknowledgement that we’re all in this together; both those who’ve taken the academic track and those who’ve discovered glass on their own.  Our glass communities tending to cluster are nevertheless all-inclusive.  This makes it easy to explain how it is that when we gather together from all over the country for a conference or meet up at various glass meccas around the world, we often know to whom we’re talking.  It never takes us Canadian glass artists long to seek out the other Canucks and get talking shop.  It’s a tribute to our glass schools, which help turn out glass artists and craftspeople knowledgeable about the history of our craft, curious to explore new processes and techniques, well-supported as alumni, and well-connected to the outside glass community.  Class acts indeed.

Many thanks to the three students who generously took time out of their busy academic schedules to contribute information about their schools.  Alexandre, Jen and Jeff, your key insights into your schools’ inner workings have helped us to know and understand better both Canada’s history and future in glass.


Jamie McDonald Gray is a recent graduate of the glass program at the Alberta College of Art + Design, as well as coordinator of the Calgary Warm Glass Guild, contributor to the Calgary Glass Initiative, and on the Board of Directors for the Glass Art Association of Canada.  Clearly, to her, networking in the glass community matters!


K is for Kathy, K is for Kanadian

Katherine Gray responds to the question ‘Where does your work come from?’


Benjamin Kikkert: Where does your work come from?/ Où en est votre travail vient-il?

By Brad Copping

French translation by Google Translator

Benjamin Kikkert, Emerald Currents, 2009, glass, 27cm x 65cm x 18cm, photo: Tom Bilenkey

Benjamin Kikkert recently put together an exhibition he titled ‘Winter’s Edge’.   The work was on display in the Craft Corridor vitrines from November 13, 2009 to January 3, 2010.  In an interview he did with the video team from the centre he talks about this new work and where it comes from as he continues to push his own boundaries.

Bejamin Kikkert récemment mis sur pied une exposition qu’il intitula «Winter’s Edge. Les travaux ont été exposés dans les vitrines du corridor bateaux de Novembre 13, 2009 au 3 Janvier 2010. Dans une interview qu’il a fait avec l’équipe vidéo du centre, il parle de ce nouveau travail et d’où il vient, comme il continue de repousser ses propres limites.

In his artist statement for the exhibition he states that, “winter clutches our world like no other season.  It strips warmth and vegetation, leaving a starkly simplified landscape.  In its icy grasp a frigid beauty emerges with a medley of smooth and jagged textures.  Winter’s Edge is a series of sculptural and functional objects crafted with this diverse beauty in mind.”

Dans sa déclaration d’artiste pour l’exposition, il affirme que  “l’hiver embrayages notre monde pas comme les autres saisons. Il bandes de chaleur et de la végétation, laissant un paysage nettement simplifiée. Dans sa glace saisir une beauté glaciale émerge avec un mélange de textures lisses et dentelées. Winter’s Edge est une série d’objets sculpturaux et fonctionnel conçu avec cette beauté diverse à l’esprit”

Benjamin Kikkert, Water's Edge 23, 2009, photo: Tom Bilenkey

Benjamin Kikkert is a graduate of the Sheridan College Craft & Design Program. Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, he has worked extensively throughout the mountains, plains and coastlines of western Canada and his past work clearly reflects that environment.  This new work exhibits a wonderful broadening of those horizons.

Benjamin Kikkert est diplômé de l’artisanat Sheridan College et conception du programme. Née et élevée à Vancouver, en Colombie-Britannique, il a beaucoup travaillé dans les montagnes, les plaines et les côtes de l’ouest du Canada et son travail passé reflète clairement que l’environnement. Ce nouvel ouvrage présente un élargissement de ces merveilleux horizons.

Benjamin Kikkert, Safe Passage, 15cm x 33cm x 14cm, Glass, 2009.


Ione Thorkelsson: Hypothetical pasts, Reconstructed futures / Hypothétique passés, futurs reconstruits

by/par  Helen Delacretez

French translation by Alexandre Hupé.

Many thanks to Helen Delacretaz and Emma Quinn of the Ontario Craft Council for permission to reprint this article which first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of Studio Magazine.  Ione Thorkelsson will give a lecture on her work and career during the upcoming GAAC Conference in Montreal.

Traduction française par Alexandre Hupé.

Merci beaucoup à Helen Delacretaz et Emma Quinn du Conseil ontarien des bateaux pour la permission de réimprimer cet article paru dans la collection Printemps / Eté 2010 de Studio Magazine. Ione Thorkelsson donnera une conférence sur son travail et de carrière au cours de la prochaine Conférence GAAC à Montréal.

Ione Thorkelsson, Tick, 1998. Cast glass. 43cm x 46.5cm x 23cm ht.

I remember much about the summer of 1998. I had just arrived in Winnipeg for a summer internship at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). I recall the excitement about finally beginning my museum career, the isolation of starting anew in unfamiliar surroundings, the glorious prairie heat, and of course, the relentless mosquitoes. It was also the summer I became acquainted with the work of IoneThorkelsson, whose glass practice was the focus of the WAG exhibition Ione Thorkelsson: The Unwilling Bestiary, then on view.

J’ai un bon souvenir de l’été 1998. Récemment arrivée à Winnipeg pour une résidence d’été à la galerie Winnipeg Art (WAG), je me souviens de l’excitation à débuter enfin ma carrière de conservateur dans un musée, l’isolement si nouveau dans ce vaste environnement, cette atmosphère chaude des prairies et, bien sûr, les moustiques voraces. Ce fut également l’année ou je découvris l’Art de Ione Thorkelssonm, dont le travail étais à l’honneur dans l’exposition courante du WAG Ione thorkelsson: The Unwilling Bestiary.

Fallen Wing

An elegantly minimalistic exhibition curated by former WAG Chief Curator, Thomas Smart, it featured tall, eye-level, black pedestals which melded seamlessly into the black tile floor. Atop them – dramatically lit – perched works in cast glass that defied typical classification. Part vessel, part creature, wholly imagined, these works were unlike anything I had experienced. Cast glass vestiges of assembled parts – wings, vertebrae, skulls, feet – united by the vessel core, Ione’s work forever imprinted on my mind.

Cette élégante quoique modeste exposition organisée par l’ancien conservateur en chef du WAG, Thomas Smart, présentait d’imposants trépieds (socles) noirs grand comme un homme qui fusionnaient fluidement avec le plancher de tuiles noires. Surmontés d’œuvres en pâte de verre défiant la classification classique, éclairés de façon spectaculaire, partie vaisseau, partie créature et entièrement imaginées, ces œuvres ne ressemblaient à rien de ce que j’avais connu. Des vestiges en pâte de verre de plusieurs organes réassemblés – ailes, vertèbres, crânes, pieds – unis par le cœur du vaisseau… Ces images marquantes du travail d’Ione furent à jamais gravée dans mon esprit.

Fast forward to Spring 2010, and as the WAG’s Chief Curator, I remain as mesmerized and captivated by Ione’s work as I was eleven years ago. Over the passing years I have had the pleasure to work with the artist on exhibitions and acquisitions, and most recently on the WAG’s nomination to recognize her with the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in Craft. Ione’s journey to this place and time in her life is one of resilience, commitment, conviction and, undeniably, risk. The recognition of the Saidye Bronfman award affirms what those of us who champion her work already know; she is one of the most creative and innovative artists working in craft media today in Canada.

Maintenant conservateur en Chef du WAG, je demeure aussi captivée et hypnotisée par le travail d’Ione que je l’étais il y a onze ans. Au fil du temps, j’ai eu le plaisir de travailler au montage d’expositions et à faire l’acquisition d’œuvres de l’artiste. Récemment, sur la recommandation du WAG, on lui a décerné le Prix Saidye-Bronfman pour l’excellence métiers d’art. Le parcours qui a mené Ione jusqu’à présent est un exemple de résilience, d’engagement, de conviction et incontestablement audacieux par ses risques encourus. La reconnaissance de ce prix confirme tous ceux qui ont louangé son travail jusqu’à maintenant: elle est définitivement chef de file dans l’innovation et la créativité dans les métiers d’art canadiens.

Ione Thorkelsson, recipient of this year's Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in fine crafts.

Born and raised in the Interlake district of Manitoba, Ione remembers being attracted to glass as an art form upon viewing a display of glass at the Czech pavilion at Expo ’67. In 1971 she began experimenting with lampworking. This led to travel through Europe to visit glass museums and factories, and in June 1973 Ione attended a glass course at Sheridan College. This limited introduction to the medium provided her with the confidence and the enthusiasm to embark upon her dream, and the following spring she set up her first studio in an abandoned chicken house on her parents’ land outside of Stony Mountain, MB.

Originaire du Manitoba, c’est à Expo 67 qu’Ione ressentit pour la première fois une attirance face au verre, lorsqu’elle visita le pavillon Tchèque.  En 1971,  elle débutât ses expérimentations avec le chalumeau. Cela la mena à traverser l’Europe pour visiter des musés de verre et des ateliers, puis, de prendre un cours au collège Sherridan. Cette introduction limitée au médium lui a toutefois fourni la confiance et l’enthousiasme à poursuivre son rêve, et le printemps suivant, elle créa son premier studio dans un poulailler abandonné sur les terres de ses parents, à Stony Mountain, au Manitoba.

Ione’s early work concentrated on clear glass, using bubbles and limited colours as decoration, allowing her to take the time to improve her skill and technique. In the mid-1970s, she moved her studio to its present location in Roseisle, MB, a wooded acreage on the edge of the Pembina escarpment. Here she perfected her signature commercial work of blown glass vessels featuring abstracted lines of colour layered through gathers. These pieces were essential to her livelihood, providing her with the means to maintain a hot glass studio. Ione is one of only a few women to operate her own glass studio in Canada. Having become very resourceful, she even built her own equipment, including an electric furnace.

Les premiers travaux d’Ione se sont concentrés sur du verre clair, utilisant des bulles et des couleurs limitée comme décoration, ce qui lui permet de prendre le temps d’améliorer ses compétences en la technique. Dans le milieu des années 1970, elle a déménagé son atelier à son emplacement actuel à Roseisle, MB, un âcre boisée sur le bord de l’escarpement du Pembina. Ici, elle perfectionne son travail qui devient sa marque de commerce: des vaisseaux en verre soufflé, aux lignes de couleurs abstraites entre les couches de verre. Ces pièces ont été essentielles pour sa subsistance, lui fournissant les moyens de maintenir un studio de verre chaud. Ione est l’une des rares femmes à exploiter son propre atelier de verre au Canada. Devenu très débrouillard, elle a même construit son propre équipement, y compris une fournaise électrique.

Unlike ceramics, which enjoys a long and considerable tradition in Manitoba, glass is a relative newcomer on the scene. There were no schools or facilities in the province to offer instruction in glass techniques and processes in the 1970s when Ione was embarking upon her career in glass. Then, as today, glass artists are few in the province, especially those that achieve standing within national circles. As a result, Ione is largely self-taught, driven by her appreciation and fascination for the art form. She works in relative isolation, networking with peers elsewhere by phone or internet.

Ione Thokelsson, Chrysalis


Contrairement à la céramique, qui jouit d’une longue tradition au Manitoba, le verre est un nouveau médium sur la scène. Il n’y avait pas d’écoles ou d’atelier dans la province à offrir un enseignement techniques de verre dans les années 1970 lorsqu’Ione lança sa carrière. Comme aujourd’hui les artistes de verre sont peu et épars dans la province, en particulier ceux reconnus nationalement. En conséquence, Ione est en grande partie autodidacte, poussé par son appréciation et sa fascination pour cette forme d’art. Elle travaille dans un isolement relatif, restant connectée avec le téléphone ou par Internet.

The present direction in Ione’s work emerged in the 1990s, when success with grant funding allowed her to concentrate on cast glass, a compelling new focus for her. This new work took over a decade to develop and demanded precision, strong technical skills, research and experimentation in process. The location of Ione’s studio and home, on the cusp of an ancient escarpment, has played an immense role in this body of work. As her website details, “From the vantage point of her studio, visible history, or at least the visible past that stretches away beneath one’s gaze, is vast if not to say vaguely monumental, and if the associated geological timescale could somehow be compressed, everything in the landscape before us would be seen to be on the move.”[i]

L’orientation actuelle des travaux Ione a émergé dans les années 1990, lorsqu’une subvention lui a permis de se consacrer à la pâte de verre, une  facette irrésistiblement nouvelle pour elle. Ce travail a demandé plus d’une décennie à développer et a exigé précision, des compétences techniques solides, et beaucoup de recherche et d’expérimentation. Sis au bord d’un escarpement millénaire, l’emplacement de la maison et de l’atelier a joué un rôle définitif dans ce travail. Elle en parle d’ailleurs sur son site web “Du point de vue de son atelier, l’histoire visible, ou du moins le passé visible qui s’étend loin sous le regard, est vaste pour ne pas dire vaguement monumental, et si les époques géologique pouvaient se superposer sous nos yeux, l’espace d’une seconde, tout dans le paysage serait perçu comme en déplacement.”i

Two Footed Bowl

The initial works – footed vessels – were exhibited in a self-titled 1993 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba curated by Glenn Allison. The more developed sculptural forms were subsequently shown in The Unwilling Bestiary at the WAG in 1998. Though vestigial vessels, the works no longer served the function of containment. Legs cast from birds and animals were attached to blown forms, and then refired. Creatures with translucent wings, spindly legs, and odd protrusions inhabited this fantastical world. Inspired by insects, birds, and plant forms, these organic, hybrid creations were captured in a frozen moment, at once elegant, arresting, and intangible. Their glass armatures suggested notions of aching fragility, melancholy and loss, hope and spiritual rejuvenation.

Le résultat de cet ouvrage –vaisseaux à pieds- a été exposé en 1993 à la Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. L’évolution sculpturale présenta ensuite The Unwilling Bestiary au WAG in 1998. Ces vestiges de vaisseaux ont depuis perdu  la fonction de contenant.  Des jambes d’oiseaux et d’autres animaux sont attaché à des formes soufflées, puis refusionées. Ces créatures aux ailes translucides, aux jambes grêles et aux protubérances incongrues peuplent ce monde fantastique. Inspirées par les oiseaux, les insectes et les plantes, ces créations organiques, hybrides, sont captées dans l’instant fugace de leur naissance, élégante et fragile. Elles évoques  la mélancolie, l’espoir, la perte, et le renouveau spirituel.

With the success of these early investigations, Ione was recognized with additional provincial and national grant funding. This allowed her to further explore her ideas, expanding in terms of both scale and resolved installation-work. Her self-curated 2004 exhibition at the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, Fragments and 2 reconstructions: everything we know about the Tropocene, investigates would-be fossils from a fictive epoch, remnants of “previously unknown creatures cast in glass”. [ii]

Avec le succès de ces premières réalisations, Ione a reçu de nouvelles bourses et subventions autant provinciale que nationale. Cela lui a permis d’explorer plus en avant ses idées, d’augmenter la dimension de ses pièces et de recommencer son travail d’installation. Elle organisa son propre exposition en 2004 à la Gallerie Canadienne de la Céramique & du Verre, Fragments et 2 reconstructions: tout ce que nous savons de la Tropocene, une enquête sur les soi-disant fossiles d’une époque fictive, des restes de créatures inconnues figées dans le verre.”ii

Ione Thorkelsson, Arboreal fragments, 2004. Cast glass, wood, halogen lights. 240 cm h.

From the still stand of stark tree trunks composing Arboreal fragments—inset with glowing glass sections—to the large specimen mD31704—part bird/fish/whale whose skeleton hovers, free-floating in the gallery’s nether space—Ione’s invention of mutable forms push and pull between reality and the fantastic. So cleverly realized in vision and process, one stops questioning these “hypothetical pasts, reconstructed futures.”[iii]

Du restant d’un tronc d’arbre austère, qu’elle reconstruit avec des fragments de verre illuminés -Arboreal fragments— au gigantesque oiseau mD31704 –partie oiseau/poisson/baleine dont le squelette, en morceaux détachés, plane librement dans l’espace de la galerie. Les formes mutantes d’Ione nous font osciller entre réalité et fantastique. Si bien réalisé dans la vision et le processus, l’on cesse de questionner ces “passés hypothétique, futurs reconstruit.”iii

Ione Thorkelsson, Fragments and 2 Reconstructions, 2004, Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery.

Next, Ione completed her most challenging, involving, and innovative installation – Ossuary 501 launched roughly simultaneously at two galleries in Toronto: Material Matters and the Toronto Free Gallery. Staged in 2006, it was later remounted into one, slightly larger installation in Ottawa at the Karsh-Masson Gallery in 2007 as Ossuary: bones as signifiers of human absence. Bones provide an undercurrent in Ione’s practice of the last decade; she is drawn to their tactile pleasures and perplexing curves. Decidedly not neutral, the artist recognizes bones as charged and visceral symbols of human absence, never denying their potency. With Ossuary she was able to achieve something, which curator/writer Virginia Eichhorn identifies as: “both personal and universal, that confronts darkness and despair, balanced with love and hopefulness.”[iv] The installation was profoundly haunting yet uplifting, exploiting the ephemeral nature of glass to communicate spiritual and deeply respectful concepts of death and loss.

Ensuite, Ione a complétée son installation la plus stimulante, compromettante et innovatrice – Ossuary 501 - lancée simultanément dans deux galeries à Toronto : Material Matters and the Toronto Free Gallery. Organisé en 2006, ces deux  expositions furent ensuite remodelé dans une seule installation, légèrement plus grande à la galerie Karsh-Masson d’ Ottawa en 2007 sous le titre Ossuary: bones as signifiers of human absence. Les os fournissent un courant sous-jacent dans la pratique d’Ione pendant la dernière décennie; elle en a tiré des plaisirs tactiles et des courbes inattendues. Décidément hors du commun, l’artiste reconnaît dans les os des symboles viscéraux d’absence humaine, ne niant jamais leur puissance. Avec l’Ossuaire elle a pu réaliser quelque chose, que le l’auteur/conservateur Virginia Eichhorn identifie comme : “tant l’annonce personnelle qu’universelle, qui confronte l’obscurité et le désespoir, équilibré avec l’amour et l’optimisme.”iv L’installation était profondément obsédante avec l’exploitation de la nature éphémère du verre pour communiquer spirituellement avec un profond respect pour la mort et la perte.


Currently, Ione is immersed in a body of work to be shown in September. The idea for this new work arises from a piece she created in 2008 entitled Acadia reconstruction: from memory in which she returned to the theme of invented anthropological and scientific investigation. Dissecting the notion of utopia, and the ultimate reality of dystopia, this new as-if-yet untitled installation will be a vitrified world which “by some sort of universal malicious error, falls short of (and defies) the ideal.”[v] Despite their flaws, their imperfections, and even their errors waiting to be made, the creatures inhabiting this body of work will rise to the mythic and heroic.

Présentement, Ione est immergé dans un travail de création qui sera exposé en septembre. L’idée pour ce nouveau travail résulte d’une pièce elle a créé en 2008 intitulée Acadia reconstruction: from memory dans laquelle elle a retourné au thème d’enquête anthropologique et scientifique inventée.  En disséquant la notion d’utopie et la réalité suprême de la dystopie, cette nouvelle installation non encore nommée sera un monde vitrifié qui, “par une sorte d’erreur universelle malicieuse, ne répond pas à l’idéal et le défie.“v Malgré leurs défauts, leurs imperfections et même leurs erreurs latentes, les créatures peuplant cet univers deviendront mythiques et héroïques.


Ione Thorkelsson is an artist of great courage and commitment. She has achieved national respect and recognition through innate skill, considerable self-investment and self-evaluation, sheer tenacity and an immense respect for the medium. Emerging from the barren and isolated prairie glass scene, to major exhibitions and collections in Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo, and elsewhere, Ione is to be commended for seizing risk and following instinct. Taking inspiration from nature and its inhabitants, yet considering the potential for mutability and change, her forms are poetic investigations into the science of evolution and the spirituality of existence. Through the juxtaposition of formerly unrelated elements in unexpected ways, Ione’s creations strikingly animate the space they inhabit. Appearing at once recognizable yet vastly unfamiliar, Ione’s work remains distinctive, conceptually fresh, and technically brilliant within the scope of Canadian practice.

Ione Thorkelsson est une artiste de grand courage et d’engagement. Elle a mérité le respect national et la reconnaissance par son habileté innée, son investissement considérable et son auto-évaluation, sa ténacité sans faille et un immense respect pour le médium. Émergeant de la scène plutôt raréfiée et isolée des travailleurs du verre dans les prairies jusqu’aux expositions et collections majeures de Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo et ailleurs, Ione doit être recommandée pour avoir pris des risques et suivi son instinct. En prenant l’inspiration de la nature et ses habitants, en considération du potentiel pour la mutabilité et le changement, ses formes sont des enquêtes poétiques dans la science de l’évolution et de la spiritualité existentielle. Par la juxtaposition de façon inattendue d’éléments autrefois sans rapport, les créations d’Ione animent de façon saisissante l’espace qu’elles peuplent. En apparaissant immédiatement reconnaissable encore que peu familier, les créations d’Ione sont distinctives, conceptuellement rafraichissante et techniquement brillante parmi l’art verrier canadien.

On behalf of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, I take much pleasure in congratulating Ione Thorkelsson on being awarded the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in Craft.

Au nom de la galerie Winnipeg Art, il me fait plaisir de féliciter Ione Thorkelsson pour la réception du Prix Saidye-Bronfman pour son excellence dans le métier.


[ii] Virginia Eichhorn, Mutable History: The Work of Ione Thorkelsson (2004).


[iv] Virginia Eichhorn’s Ossuary (2007) for the Karsh-Masson Gallery.



Verre Couture Receives Strong Support

The latest incarnation of the notorious glass fashion show is receiving a stylish makeover via the support of many organizations.  Verre Couture, which is set to close out the Glass Art Association of Canada’s conference Transparent Transformation, will occur on Saturday May 29th at the belvedere of the Montreal Science Centre.  The mix of cutting edge fashion design and glass art is set to take the event to the next level and is poised to be one of the major events during Montreal’s year long Ville de Verre.   GAAC would like to extend their sincere thanks for the generous support from the following organizations:

Centre des Sciences de Montréal

Bureau de la mode Montreal

Société de développement des entreprises culturelles

Musée McCord

L’Oréal Paris

La Salle College

Montréal ville de verre/City of Glass


Where did the winter go?

By Brad Copping

That was the easiest winter we’ve had since we moved out of Toronto 15 years ago.  The snow blower got a big break this year, as did my nerves, not having to clear snow and ice off the low pitched steel roof on the back of the shop.  But I must admit I do enjoy making the most of our cold and snowy season, dress for it and it is the best time of year here in Apsley.  Stepping out the front door and strapping on the cross-country skis and heading out for an hour or two is one of those activities that connect me to the place I live.  It feeds me in a way that allows me to put something real back into my work.  However it seems the bulk of our snow got stuck in the central states far to the south and the rest of it seemed to keep hammering our friends in Alberta into April.  So, with so little snow here at home, it was a skating winter.

(Check out the new responses to Where does your work come from?)

My old glass class mate Blaise Campbell and his partner Deana were up for Christmas and he lead us on a meandering walk with the big snow shovels out on the frozen but slushy swamp between my house and my neighbours’.  The New Year arrived after some rain, a freeze up, a big dump of snow and a visit from Koen Vanderstukken and Rommy Rodriguez.  With their help we cleared the path again.  My neighbour Paul, his son Brian the rocket scientist (no, really) and his girl friend got in on the act as well.  The end of January brought an almost perfect thaw, rain, freeze cycle that brought some mediocre ice up a notch or two, just in time for some full moon skating and a gathering of glass folks.  But it was mid February when the otters cracked the beaver dam just above the swamp and sections of the path flooded and froze to that perfect, silent ice.  A community of friends, neighbours and family helped make and enjoy this bit of northern ephemera.  Does it mean anything in and of itself?  Probably not, but seeing them out there reminded me I am part of something larger and that helped fed my soul this winter.

Jessica MacDonald's winning conference t-shirt design

And speaking of something larger, I hope to see you at the end of May in the Ville du Verre for Transparent Transformation.  Our host for this event is Espace VERRE, and the volunteers around this community have been working extremely hard to make this an amazing conference.  Demos and lectures from artists and curators from our national community as well as the international community will address the themes of sustainability, environmental studios, and new beginnings.  Special activities include the portfolio review on Wednesday, the member’s exhibition opening and object grab Thursday evening, Le Boudoir de Verre (Friday night party and talent show spectacular) and for the closing night party at the belvedere of the Science Centre with its roof top patio right on the river, the reincarnation of the glass fashion show, Verre Couture-Le défile. Our backdrop for the whole event, the vibrant city of Montreal, with its museums and galleries making a big effort to feature glass this year, will round out the experience.  The museums have a free open door day on the Sunday, which everyone is encouraged to check out after the GAAC general meeting.  Whoa! Sure beats fighting the black flies here in Apsley!

I look forward to seeing our community together in Montreal.


MFA Completed, Steven Tippin to Speak in Montreal

By Brad Copping

Steven Tippin, Force, 218.5 x 92 x .95 cm, 2010

Steven Tippin, detail of Force, 2010

With two years of steady work under his belt, Steven Tippin has completed his MFA at RIT and produced a very impressive body of work in the process.  Tippin completed the three year Advanced Diploma in the Craft and Design Program in Glass at Sheridan College in Oakville, before heading down to Rochester, New York to work with Robin Cass and Michael Rogers.  He will be speaking at the Glass Art Association of Canada Conference in Montreal as part of the Graduates Presentation on Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 9 am.  Here he talks a bit about the work he has made for his MFA exhibition (by the way, the piece Force is 50 kilos of glass).

I think that my glass artwork is very similar to the techniques that inspire it. When I view the work I see elements of printmaking, sculpture, painting, photography, graphite drawing, halftone imagery and text. I also think that the repetition, overlapping, lack of vivid color and misleading perspective found in the work is very important when I create and critique my glass panels.

Steven Tippin, Crossgrain, 76 x 25.4 x 7.5 cm, 2010

Steven Tippin, About, 56 x 45.75 x 11.5 cm, 2010

I make the glass panels by fusing together individual pieces of glass, called murini, into a thin flat panel. The “tubes” in the glass are a result of how the murini are made in the hot shop and are inside the glass, not painted on the surface. The finished panels have the illusion of depth that is much deeper than the physical ¼” of space created by the movement of the glass at a liquid state.

I feel that each work of art shown in this exhibition best showcases the elements found in my work that I feel are most important.  The highlighted characteristics of the work include the elements of painterly movement, sculptural form, contrasting visual versus physical texture, illusion of condensed space and the way that the work acts like a lens and distorts the world behind it. Although each piece is very different, a common color palette and a similar creation technique unite them. Studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology for my Masters of Fine Arts has allowed my to pursue work that would never have been possible otherwise. During my two years there I was able to push the movement in the work, the scale and use new techniques such as water jet cutting.

Tippin’s MFA Thesis Exhibition ran from April 2 to April 27, but is being held over for the month of May, 2010.  The exhibition is being held at Booksmart Studio, 250 North Goodman St, Rochester, NY 14607.  The gallery is open Monday to Friday 10am – 5 pm.

For more on Steven Tippin check out his website at

Steven Tippin, Gallery installation, 2010