“I’ve just completed a body of work composed of hollow blown forms containing multiple layers of color. After they’re annealed, I carve and engrave pattern and texture into them. The forms are stout and heavy-looking but, like a Japanese tea bowl, they meet the ground at a small point, giving them a sense of lift and breath.
I started out making functional ceramics and have gradually moved away from the vessel into closed forms that still have a “vessel” anatomy. The foot, lip, shoulder, waist, and so on, are all redefined to compose a dynamic shape. I’m drawn to this type of engineering because it creates a vocabulary and an orientation with which to discover new forms and their relationship to functional objects.” Excerpt from GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet 01/27/2010
Ethan Stern has established himself as a major upcoming artist in contemporary glass sculpture. He studied ceramics at the TAFE Institute in Brisbane, Australia, later transitioning from ceramics to glasswhile enrolled at Alfred University in New York. He currently owns a studio in Seattle, WA.
Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA. “Mise en Place,” John De Wit, 2009
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME.
Advanced Italian Technique, Lino Tagliapietra, 2007
Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA. Form beyond the Furnace, Lienors Torre, 2006
Alfred University, Alfred, NY. New York State School of Ceramics, Art and Design. Bachelor of Fine Arts, 2001
TAFE College of Ceramics, Brisbane, Australia. Associates of the Arts, 1997
Visiting Artist, Ball State University, Mucie, IN
Best Emerging Artist Award, Tacoma Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA
Jurors Choice, Bay Area Glass Institute Fine Art Auction, San Francisco, CA
Visiting Artist, Tacoma Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA
Commission/Permanent Collection. “Allure of the Seas” Royal Caribbean Cruises, Finland
2009 The George and Dorothy Saxe Award, Full Scholarship, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA
Commission/Permanent Collection. “Oasis of the Seas” Royal Caribbean Cruises, Finland
2008Purchase Award, Soho Myriad, Ritz Carlton, Shenzhen, China
Fellow, Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, Millville, NJ
Artist in residence, Alberta College of Art and Design, Calgary, AB Canada
2007 Finalist, Young Glass 2007 Exhibition, Eboltoft Glass Museum, Eboltoft, Denmark
2006Pilchuck Glass School Staff Scholarship, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA
2003-05 Artist in residence, Appalachian Center for Craft, Smithville, TN
The following is an essay titled, Cold Working Beyond Tradition written by Ethan Stern for the GAS Journal for the 2014 Chicago Conference. It is republished here with permission of the author.
Cold working is a part of the glass working process that involves cutting, grinding, polishing and generally manipulating glass in its cold state. This is obvious to most with experience in the field, but can also be mystifying to those with limited experience. Most students that I encounter come out of their respective glass programs not wanting to step foot in a cold shop again for as long as they can manage. This disdain from cold working usually comes from such projects as: Make a wonky block and cold work it into a perfectly symmetrical and optically polished cube. This project always takes hours and hours and usually ends with the student finishing the cube in the final hour and then dropping it on the way to critique, failing in miserable defeat. I bring this to light because my approach to cold work has taken a different path, which I demonstrated in Cold Working Beyond Tradition at GAS Chicago 2014.
My glass-work is created with a combination of both blowing and sculpting of the bubble in the hot shop and carving the glass with diamond and stone wheels in the cold shop once its annealed. These two processes demand a completely different approach and create a very different type of creative space. The hot shop process is often fast, intense and team oriented. I work with at least three people in the shop and rely on each for a different part of the process. I owe much of the progression of my work in the hot process to these artists.
The cold working process in contrast is slow, wet and almost always done alone. For me this is when I develop a relationship with the objects that I create. Standing at the lathe, where most of cold work is done, I hold the objects in my hands and work the entire surface with the cutting wheels. At this point I can see every angle, every edge and experience the physical nature of the shape. Each engraved mark, like the stroke of a paintbrush on canvas or a finger pushed into clay; leave evidence of my hand and are undeniably connected to my process and the nature of the material itself. Feeling no ownership of the traditional techniques I employ, it is the revealing quality of carving that attracts me to this method of manipulating glass.
My Demonstration at GAS attempted to show my approach to glass cutting as one that re-examines the process of cold working and uses it to not only enhance the surface of a form or create ornamentation, but to materialize the overall voice of an object. To illustrate this I attempted to work a piece from start to finish over a period of three and a half hours in the cold shop of Ignite Glass studio in Chicago. I brought a blown piece with me that was approximately 10” x 10” x 3”. This piece is called “Quadraform”, and is part of my Structured Sound Series, the intersection of geography, architecture, and industrial design and how it can influence the visual deconstruction of our surroundings. The piece is blown with multiple layers of color and shaped into a geometric form in the hot shop. Normally cold working this piece from start to finish will take approximately 12 hours, but I rushed it a bit for the demo.
I began by drawing on the surface of the object with a wax pencil to create a starting point and guideline. I often use a wax pencil, a graphite pencil or a sharpie to mark the surface prior to cutting it. The cutting process began with a rough diamond wheel used to carve the majority of material way. I used an 80 grit sintered diamond wheel that had a flat profile to carve away the colored glass in a precise way with my drawings on the surface. I also used a spherical profiled 80grit diamond wheel to remove a bulk of the material that was not part of the design. Once I had removed the material and finished the basic image on the surface I used a 400grit diamond wheel with the same flat profile to smooth out the 80grit cuts. After the diamond cutting was complete I used an Aluminum Oxide Stone wheel to put a semi-polished surface on parts of the piece. This stone wheel had a leaded center and was used with a tapered and threaded spindle that fit onto the lathe shaft. The stone wheel removes very little glass but leaves a beautiful satin finish on the glass. The stone must be dressed and polished before it can polish the glass you are cutting with it. Lastly, I finished the entire surface of the form with 2F Pumice that I used with a brush wheel made from Tampico fiber to give the surface a semi-polish without losing the texture of the cutting. The bristles of the Brush wheel allow for the pumice to polish the surface without removing the grooves and marks left by the wheels. These steps illustrate the basic processes that I use in my own studio to cut and polish my blown works.
I would hope that the people who saw my demo could walk away from it with a better understanding of how to use cold working to effect their work in a new way by using it to create a dialog between form and surface. Carving, cutting, and engraving glass is approachable for every one regardless of their skill and knowledge of glass. Safe operation of machinery and a considered approach to the material can lead to great things in the cold shop with very rewarding results.