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Blown Away: Glass Artist Reflects on Human Condition

Eamon King remembers watching an artist working with a fiery-orange blob of molten glass.

“I was a kid on a field trip to Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio,” he said. “That’s when my passion for glass began.”

This glass skeleton is part of Eamon King’s exhibit, “Recycled Reflections Through Human Chemistry,” which is on display on the fifth floor of Carlson Library this semester.

When he was 16, he took a glassblowing class at the Toledo Museum of Art.

“My first piece was a very ugly paperweight that only my mother would love, so it was a gift to her while I was in high school,” King said and laughed. “She still has it.”

These days his hot work is turning heads.

Check out “Recycled Reflections Through Human Chemistry,” which is on display this semester on the fifth floor of Carlson Library. King created the fantastical mirrors and glass skeleton for his master of liberal studies degree, which he received in May.

“When I created the figure and the mirrors, I thought about how similar we all are as human beings on the inside. We all have the same needs and are built from similar DNA with the most minute differences in traits,” King said.

This mirror is part of Eamon King’s “Recycled Reflections Through Human Chemistry.”

From sketching to glassblowing to flameworking, the project took about one year. He needed to bone up on anatomy.

“A typical adult skeleton has 206 bones. In my project, I made some changes to the overall skeleton to incorporate scientific glass pieces into the bone structure,” he explained. “All of the glass bones are welded or sealed together and actually consist of only 12 individual pieces that are supported on the metal armature I built.

“For example, in my figure, the spine doesn’t have each individual vertebrae; I used double manifold systems, or Schlenk lines, that are common in chemistry labs and that I built for the spine instead of duplicating vertebrae. I then blew holes and sealed all the ribs and sternum into the manifolds instead of vertebrae. The only bones that are left out from the skeleton other than the spine are the patellas and the hyoid bone.”

Eamon King created a punch bowl at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

King is familiar with scientific glass: He is a part-time glass shop assistant in the UToledo Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“Eamon King is a very gifted artistic glassblower who has made huge strides in scientific glass,” said Steven D. Moder, master scientific glassblower in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who mentored King for his master’s degree project. “The glass skeleton had a variety of scientific pieces that Eamon was able to pull together for a beautiful, artistic, scientific sculpture.”

In addition to being artful, King is all about recycling.

“I built the frames to hold the large glass pieces for this project. I constructed the frames from wood floor joists that were reclaimed lumber from a renovation of a more than 100-year-old building project in downtown Toledo,” King said.

The cool mirrors feature 100-plus glass pieces that received a reflective coating. King then placed the individual pieces around the larger mirrors.

“The University of Toledo allowed me to create my own program through the Master of Liberal Studies Program, and I worked with Steve Moder in the Scientific Glassblowing Lab, where I learned a whole different skill set,” King said.

As an undergraduate at UToledo, King traveled overseas to learn about Murano glass and worked with traditional Venetian artists. After receiving a bachelor of arts degree from the University in 2008, he taught glassblowing and flameworking at the Toledo Museum of Art for 12 years.

“Compared to working as an artist in area studios the past 15 years, this adventure in precision glassware for chemistry apparatus has been a big change for me,” King said.

“Eamon will keep the argument thriving on whether scientific glass is artistic or highly technical,” Moder said.

Over the summer, King traveled to Corning, N.Y., for a weeklong symposium with the American Scientific Glassblowing Society.

“I had the opportunity to work with and meet many skilled scientific flameworkers from around the world,” King said.

The UToledo alumnus is pursuing a career as an artist while working with Moder in the glass shop.

And doors continue to open: King recently was one of seven artists selected to make a glass key for the city of Toledo.

“I enjoy working with glass due to its limited lifespan and fragile nature,” King said. “It is a constant reminder that if it is not treated with care and respect, it could be destroyed, and eventually, it will be, very similarly to ourselves.”

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