Virtual demonstrations have allowed us to reach students at home and in classrooms despite the challenges of coming together during a pandemic. For the second year in a row, we were delighted to host Brooklyn Technical High School’s entire Industrial Design department — over 130 juniors and seniors — in a series of virtual glassblowing demonstrations streamed live from the UrbanGlass studio. Though some of the physical aspects of the experience, like the warm glow of the glass furnace and the hum of a busy studio, are lost through the screen, the chance to tune in remotely gives every student a front row seat to the action and a voice through their keyboard. The thoughtful questions and inspired joy that came through in their comments were an energizing spark in the final weeks of the year.
Over 300 professionals work out of the UrbanGlass studios, giving us the opportunity to introduce Brooklyn Tech students to new and diverse artists each year. This year’s demos featured Brooklyn based artist and designer Andrew Hughes, with assisting artists Courtney McCloskey and Shuhei Fujii. Demonstrating how he uses custom milled blow molds to fabricate unique drinkware for Toronto tableware brand Misette, Andrew explained his versatile technical and creative process as students watched him work from their classroom computers.
Each piece the artists made required careful timing of multiple steps and components. Andrew narrated every element from start to finish, including how dusting hot glass with baking soda creates tiny bubbles that seem to sparkle within the glass, and a cooking-show style look at how the glass is cut and polished after the blown piece cools back down to room temperature. The work flowed smoothly, owing to good communication and an efficient working rhythm born from lots of practice and prototypes; an essential part of the design process.
In a wide ranging conversation, students’ questions ran the gamut of topics from technique (Why do you keep turning the glass when it’s in the mold?), to finances (How much do you typically sell your pieces for?), to philosophy (What would you change about the industry as a whole?), and everything in between. The same threads of curiosity emerged with each demo, eventually weaving together an understanding of what it’s like to be a designer, fabricator, and small business owner working in the field today. For students considering their next steps towards university education and beyond, Andrew’s experience and perspective outlined a framework for a successful creative practice sustained by a network of lasting community connections.
We are endlessly inspired by our young neighbors at Brooklyn Tech, and are thrilled to be able to provide a space for meaningful discussion between practicing professionals and aspiring students. We can’t wait to be able to host them in-person at the UrbanGlass studios again soon, and see their creativity shine when they get hands-on with glass.
UrbanGlass is committed to fostering community partnerships with organizations that share our passion for educating and inspiring young people. Please contact our Youth & Outreach Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, or to reserve a custom designed virtual demonstration for your group.