Gather Glass: Blowing Glass… and Minds

Hot. Glowing. Molten glass illuminates the glassblower’s studio as they risk high temperatures and defy the laws of physics for their art. “Glassblowing creates not just an object, but a spiritual connection to the object. It is a relationship,” says Benny Giguere, a glassblower and instructor at Gather Glass in PVD. There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the simultaneously artistic and functional craft of glassblowing. 

Fostering this relationship with glass every day, Giguere remarks that he still has fun when working with beginners in his classes; “the glitter in their eyes” reflects the way he felt when he began the craft decades ago, and continues to feel today. 

“They get really excited about how hot it is, the sheer temperature being over 2000 degrees. When they mentally take a step back, it opens up a different part of their mind that is typically not open in our daily routines of everyday life,” says Giguere. “Glass has a mysterious allure… most people don’t understand how it works. So when they put those puzzle pieces together, they say, ‘Oh wow, this is how glass is blown.’” 

Giguere’s business is centered around making glassblowing an experience for anyone who wants to try or practice it. “We want the studio to be an all-inclusive space, from people with disabilities to people who are nervous about trying something new.”

For Giguere, working with glass is special because of the “translucency, the color options, the technique. It really involves your whole body.”

“It’s kinda like a dance. You’re changing something from a liquid to a solid. It is alive in that sense. You have to have a conversation with it,” says Giguere. 

Working with glass requires constant movement, and as a result, requires lots of thought before heating the material. It creates functional objects that represent not just the material, but also a connection to the person who created it. 

Glassblowing is a meticulous and rewarding craft, allowing the artist to exert total creative control over the object in a process that engaged both the entirety of the mind and body. “Glass has a mysterious allure that most people don’t understand.”

Giguere explained that for the beginner, glassblowing provides a sense of pride and accomplishment. To become a professional, however, “it’s literally thousands of hours.” yet when you take a class, you realize that it is not an unattainable craft to master, but one that requires dedication and consistency. For those interested in experiencing this artistic process, book a class through the Gather Glass Blowing Studios website. 

“I feel lucky that I get to do it,” Giguere says. 

Benny Giguere and Gather Glass Blowing Studios can be found at 521 Atwells Ave, PVD.

Three Wheel Studio: A useful beauty

Finely painted bowls. Rugged and misshapen mugs. Decorative vases. All ceramic art, yet all unique. 

“Ceramics as a medium is very versatile, you can literally materialize almost any artistic idea using a ceramic discipline,” says Luke Chen of Three Wheel Studio in PVD. Ceramics provides him with an art form that is not only artistically freeing, but also functional for everyday life. 

We have all had ceramics in our life at some point- whether through a children’s activity, shopping for home decor or personal interest, if we open our eyes, ceramics surround us throughout everyday life. It is easy to forget that ceramic pieces are art, too.

When asked about the most common reaction non-artists have to ceramic art, Chen says, “That it is not a form of ‘high art.’ In a way, I take comfort in that because I believe art should be approachable. I am very comfortable making functional objects that enhance my collectors’ daily life.” For Chen, ceramics is an art form that bridges functionality and artistry and forges a relationship not only between art and utility but also between the artist and collector. 

“I’m an accidental potter,” says Chen. “I only took a couple of independent studies in my formal art school training. I took to ceramics out of necessity. For example, I can sell ceramic work and not my paintings. It is only recently that I became comfortable in my role as a potter.” 

“It is a very tactile art form, it is something that brings a sense of comfort in your daily life,” says Chen. With each move of the artist’s hands, they impose their ideas directly onto the piece. In this way, each piece is deeply personal as it reflects each thoughtful move the artist makes, requiring both creative expression and trained skill. For Chen, his art form is useful, expressive and inherently artistic. 

Ceramic beginners, experts or even those who are simply intrigued should consider Chen’s advice the next time you consider pottery or ceramics: “Keep an open mind, challenge the conventional doctrine. Don’t be afraid to explore all possibilities in the making of ceramic objects.” 

Luke Chen’s studio, Three Wheel Studio, can be found at 436 Wickenden St, PVD.

On the Cover: April 2022

April! A month of rain showers, increasing temperatures, budding trees and… budding cannabis? This month, Motif features articles focused on marijuana, pot, Mary Jane, the devil’s lettuce or whatever you feel inclined to call it. And this month’s cover artist Walker Mettling provides us with imagery that does not shy away from the subject. 

“There’s something about PVD that forces you into art,” Mettler recalls realizing when he landed in PVD in 2008. Now, he finds himself mainly as a teaching artist working with the PVD Comics Consortium, a school where he conducts free workshops with kids and publishes their comics alongside adult cartoonists from around the world. He is also currently working on a series of “historical postcard plus monster” screen prints. 

For this issue’s cover, Mettling drew inspiration from his own screen print series, but also other artists he came across. “There’s a 19th century plant illustrator called [Walter Otto] Müller who I kinda riffed off of his drawing of marijauana plants,” said Mettling. “I was just mashing them up.” 

Mettling sought to use the themes of RI and cannabis, and “visually overlap them in a fun way.” Ultimately he chose to let the juxtaposition speak for itself, rendering the image of the cannabis monster and the RI State House. It would be difficult to imagine a giant cannabis monster taking over the RI State House, yet for some, Mettling’s cover art may evoke a more potent message. 

“A lot of my process is based on improvising on my own or with other people” said Mettling. “Part of the process is surprising myself along the way.” For this piece, Mettling’s process turned “into a game” as he toyed with the contrasting elements of RI’s state government and Cannabis Month. 

When asked if he was hoping for a particular reaction, especially in a state where cannabis is not yet recreationally legal, the artist responded “I did not consider that at all.” Though he had no intention of a specific effect,  Mettling’s work not only surprised him, but may surprise you, too.