to Art Glass
Fire in the Hole event
glass artist Kenyon
to operate his glass art furnace
(September 2012) As patrons stroll the streets
of Madisons Chautauqua Festival of Art taking in the pottery, paintings
and jewelry, they may wonder how these artisans create such beautiful
pieces of art.
How does a painter take a canvas, a few tubes of color, and a brush and
bring to vivid reality wildflowers growing on a sunny hillside? How does
a potter turn a lump of sodden, gray clay into a breathtaking vase? Too
often the layers of skill involved escape the layperson even if the artist
has time to explain their work.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of studio glass, the organizers of Chautauqua
decided to give patrons an inside look at the complexity and beauty behind
the art of blown glass.
how he creates glass artwork.
As part of Chautauqua, Matt Kenyon, 36, studio glass artist
and Department Head of the Glass Studio at the Indianapolis Art Center,
will offer free demonstrations of the art of glass blowing in the special
program entitled Fire in the Hole. This will take place all
day Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30. Kenyon will set up his traveling
furnace in the parking lot of the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center at 601
W. First St. Through these demonstrations he will introduce visitors to
the entire process of blowing glass from the early stages
of melting solid cubes of glass into a moldable form to the final stages
of shaping molten glass into the desired design.
Seth Bickis, a member of the Chautauqua Committee, says that the organizers
wanted the festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary in a variety of
ways. All the awards for the festival were made of glass. We took
part in a calendar that showcases glass. Also a video will play in the
Visitors Center throughout the weekend giving the history of studio
Bickis said he hopes these different elements bring a special focus on
glass throughout the festival. He notes that he will also be demonstrating
blown glass on Vine Street. As opposed to Kenyons working with glass
heated in a furnace, Bickis heats a different kind of glass pyrex
with a torch to make wearable art such as pendants and compression pieces.
These pieces have a flower formed inside. Bickis said he hopes the complementary
demonstrations give attendees a more complete view of the range of techniques.
Kenyons early training focused on woodworking as he studied at Herron
School of Art and Design. But shortly after high school, he took his first
glass blowing class and was hooked. He soon began incorporating his glass
into his wood furniture creating his signature combinations. Kenyon admits
that, while he may be a better woodworker, his first love is glass.
Once you get past the first two years of being terrible, it becomes
really fun, jokes Kenyon. Glass has its own personality. I
have to constantly counteract what the glass is doing fighting
to create the shape I want instead of letting the glass do what it wants
to do. Very different than any other medium.
Kenyon kept taking classes until he couldnt afford to take any more.
Glass is the most expensive medium of art the glass
is expensive, the tools are expensive and the furnace is especially expensive.
The cost of the propane or natural gas to keep the furnace burning drives
up the cost.
When Kenyon found he couldnt afford to take classes, he began teaching.
He now teaches several classes per week as well as pop-ups two-hour
classes that introduce participants to glass blowing as they work to make
a paperweight or magnet.
At this point, Im really a better instructor than artist.
I love getting people involved. Once people try it, they love working
with the glass. But I want to get back to my own art. I want to explore
new ways to combine woodworking and glass. Im going to take this
next stage to focus on my art and expand the pieces I offer.
Kenyon said he looks forward to the opportunity to demonstrate his glass
blowing skills during Chautauqua.
Kenyon displays his wares at the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis.
He holds shows the first Friday of each month as well as meeting interested
buyers by appointment. But Madisonians dont need to travel to Indy
to take in the work of this up and coming artist. Patrons can watch Kenyon
at work, then head to his booth to purchase his pieces during the Chautauqua.
Kenyon encourages people to stop by the Visitors Center parking lot to
watch Fire in the Hole. Ill be making pieces geared
toward the interests of those watching. Building on the fall theme
he plans to make pumpkins and flowers. If children are in the audience,
he may show how he can turn an ice-cube shaped lump of glass into an octopus.
If he can recruit helpers, he will be able to produce more intricate pieces
I look forward to showing people the process. Its really foreign
to most people to see someone actually create something out of liquid
Chautauqua fills the streets of Madison with incredible beauty. As patrons
wonder yet again how artists can produce such splendor, Fire in
the Hole offers a window into one of the most beautiful and intricate
art forms blown glass.
Kenyon says, Fifty years ago glass came out of the factory and became
a fine art. I hope people come out to see all the different options and
come to appreciate glass working for the art it is.