There was a chill in the November air but the furnaces glowed red-hot at Ryan Gothrup’s mobile hot-glass studio in VMFA’s Robins Sculpture Garden. As an intrigued crowd gathered ‘round, Gothrup, an adjunct professor of glass at Tidewater Community College, demonstrated how twirling a molten glob of glass at the end of rod can be awe-inspiring … and even a bit hypnotic.
Gathering glass from the 2,000-degree furnace, Gothrup puffed air into it, rotated it, and pulled, twisted, and spun the glass into beautiful pieces that echo some of the works you’ll find inside the museum.
“I remember the first time I saw someone do that,” Gothrup said, explaining that his art has been around since before Jesus’s time. “I thought: I want to do that!” The “gaffer” kept up a steady banter with the crowd, while making a thin curlycue of glass or an organic-shaped bowl look easy. Magician? Maybe. Artist? Definitely.
To demonstrate how thin glass can get, Gothrup, who has been blowing glass for 15 years now, blew one “gather” of glass into a bubble the size of a basketball. He then broke off a piece and passed it around the crowd. It felt just like a piece of thin plastic.
After creating each new work, the artist knocked the piece off his pipe into a metal drum to recycle (much to the chagrin of the crowd), and started the process all over again. That bowl would’ve looked lovely on my coffee table!
As a part of the Chihuly Statewide Programs, Gothrup will be demonstrating around the state at Sabot School in Richmond on January 3 and at the Suffolk Art Gallery on February 16. For information about engaging this artist contact Jeffrey Allison at VMFA. You can also see a video of his demonstration on the VMFA Education Tumblr site.
– Terri Jones