Glass work is one of the most precise mediums of art and has been around for thousands of years. The St. Louis area is home to a few local glass artists, including Sam Stang. Stang demonstrated the range of his profession during a visit to SIUE's glass studio in the Art and Design Building on March 3.
Stang was the second glass artist to visit SIUE in a series after Tony Cray came the day before. Stang was accompanied by his wife, Kaeko Maehata and their assistant, Freddy, who helped Stang complete his glass works.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in a blistering-hot room with three different glass kilns and an open garage door letting in cool air, Stang exhibited his talents in forming glass creations with precise method and process thinking. Using a hollow, heated metal rod, Stang picked up glass from the middle kiln, kept at 2100 degrees. Then, Stang rolled the rod to shape the glass in ways he wanted and used tools such as big tweezers, cherrywood blocks, wooden paddles and a graphite paper pad to finish the glass’ shape. Stang also used the “glory-hole” kiln, a heated chamber that is smaller in size than the middle kiln, where the glass work gets heated to keep it from cooling as he continued working on it.
The first few demonstrations Stang did were creating a pitcher, vase, bowl and various canes, stretching the glass as far back as 30 feet. The heat mirage from the glass could be seen. When the glass works were finished, Professor of glass Jeremy Lampe put the works in a 930 degree chamber, where they sat for the course of the day.
Stang has visited SIUE as a guest artist before.
“I have visited a few times,” Stang said. “The last time I visited was about ten years ago; the first time was in 1981 when there was a glass symposium at the old Wagner building when I was at Washington University.”
Stang began glass work the same year he first visited SIUE for the glass symposium and has continued ever since. Today, he owns his own glass studio in Augusta, Missouri with Maehata and has showcased his work in many different art galleries and events, including Art on the Square in Belleville, Illinois.
SIUE’s shop tech Steve Vick has visited Stang’s glass studio and has seen the artist many times before.
“[Stang] makes glass work look so easy,” Vick said. Vick had been taking the same glass class for years before being hired by SIUE. “[Stang]’s work is smooth, effortless and constantly professional. There is no struggle. Everything has a purpose and is flawless.”
Graduate ceramics student Noah Kildoo of Grove City, Pennsylvania, also watched Stang’s glass demonstrations. Although he is a ceramics student, Kildoo worked with glass for the first time in the fall semester.
“I absolutely loved it,” Kildoo said. “One of the most interesting components about glass work is the setup. If you don’t have the right setup, you’re not gonna do what you wanted to.”
Kildoo had heard about Stang before and researched him before his visit.
“This is my first time seeing him,” Kildoo said. “I’ve seen his work before on the shelves, but seeing him do it in person makes a lot of sense. He is very process-oriented about it.”
To learn more about Sam Stang’s artwork and his career as a glass artist, check out his website.