Glassblower Michael Nourot, who, with his wife, Ann Corcoran, operated Nourot Glass Studio in Benicia, California, from 1974 to 2012, died on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at the age of 66. At the start of his prolific 40-year career, Nourot attended the first session of the now-iconic Pilchuck Glass School, where he worked closely with founders Dale Chihuly and James Carpenter. In his glassblowing studio, Nourot went on the make decorative glass works, some of which were presented to popes and presidents, according to the studio website.
Born in Riverside, California in 1949, Nourot was first exposed to the art of blowing glass at an early age. By nine years old, Nourot was already blowing glass, and went on to study with Marvin Lipofsky at the California College of Art and Crafts, where he met his future wife, Ann Corcoran. (He is survived by Corcoran and his three children).
In 1971 Nourot attended the first session of the Pilchuck Glass School. Nourot helped turn an empty meadow into what would quickly become one of the most important centers for glass education in the world, and the site of pivotal international exchange. Nourot helped build the first hot shop and furnace at the school. He even stayed at the site over the winter when all other artists left, an act that perfectly exemplifies the tenacious love that he had for his art. According to his son Nicholas, Nourot used to say that he worked on his art at Pilchuck even when snow trapped him inside.
Following his time at Pilchuck, Nourot traveled to Italy. While there, he was hired by the Venini factory to make Murano glass, making him one of the few Americans to work at Venini. It was here in Italy that he acquired many of the color formulas that today make his work so distinctive, such as his famous reds.
Having been exposed to the art of blowing glass at an early age himself, Michael Nourot shared his passion with his son Nicholas when Nicholas was only six years old. By the age of eleven, Nicholas found working with glass to be more important than spending time in school. Now 32 and an avid glassblower, Nicholas Nourot has had many solo shows and has worked in the Nourot Glass Studio for over 10 years.
Nicholas took over the Nourot studio following his father’s 2012 retirement and has continued running it ever since. When asked about the future of the family studio, Nicholas confidently stated that he has no intention of closing it now that his father has passed, but intends to continue producing works, as well as to gradually shift the studio away from the production of smaller items and towards larger items such as lighting installations.
This shift has been underway in the studio for some time now, even prior to Michael’s retirement and passing. The final works of Michael Nourot exemplify this shift. According to Nicholas Nourot, Michael had begun making larger works towards the end of his career, such as a chandelier commissioned for George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch as well as a slumped glass window made for a local community center.
When asked about his father’s legacy, Nicholas Nourot reflected on the fact that his father made hundreds of thousands of works during his career. He has works in the Smithsonian, in the Vatican, but also in countless homes across the world, said Nicholas.
A memorial service for Michael Nourot will take place from 2 PM to 8 PM on Saturday June 20th at the Wednesday Club, 225 Sacramento St., Suisun City.
Additionally, Nourot Glass Studio will be presenting a chronological exhibition of his work in their 6,000 square foot studio. The exhibition will include works from his time in Italy as well some of his early works from the 60s. The dates of this exhibition have yet to be announced.