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book review: no green berries or leaves

Paul Stankard’s autiobiography, No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass, gets off to a slow start but much like the artist’s journey with glass, once it picks up speed it simply flows and the importance of his message becomes as clear as the glass paperweights and sculpture that represent his legacy.

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Stankard lets no obstacle stand in the way of his pursuit of excellence and it shows. He has developed a truly eloquent artistic vocabulary that has resulted in a body of work which can only be described as breathtaking. Considered one of the world’s master glass artists, his work can be found in the collections of more than 35 museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Museum of Decorative Arts, the Louvre (Paris, France), Victoria and Albert Museum (London, England) and National Museum of American Art – The Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC).

Not bad for a kid whose teachers often told him he was stupid and lazy when he was growing up.

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A collection of essays that chronicle Stankard’s journey from struggling student to master glass artist, the book follows his childhood and early career as a scientific glass blower, then takes the reader through his transition and slow, steady climb to master glass artist. He tells the stories that shape the man and grow the artist, including his struggle with dyslexia – how he outwits, navigates and soars beyond the learning disability.

Stankard’s reflections on his long battle with low self-esteem are deeply personal and humble insights that offer a window into our collective psyche – there is a strange comfort here, reading how one of the most recognized, accomplished and important living glass artists of our time reckons with a dark ‘constant companion’ that most of us know intimately.  Unwavering support and love, first from his parents and later from his wife and family, are a steady and reassuring presence, at times carrying the artist and the man through painful periods of self doubt.

Equally as compelling are his views on the long-term value of a focused education and how one achieves excellence in art making –  themes that appear repeatedly include commitment, exposure to great art, practice and perseverance. Published in 2007,  it is not a surprise that No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass has enjoyed great success in the glass world and is now in its second printing.  However, with this printing, artists and educators across all media are embracing the book because they understand the powerful lessons surrounding the important ideas that Stankard is passionate about – ideas that transcend the boundaries of any one medium.  This book is not just for glass artists, but for every person interested in making art, every person interested in making good art, and every person who has, at some time in their life, felt ‘less than.’ Paul Stankard’s words are surely an inspiration, but as you will see when you read No Green Berries or Leaves, it is his actions that are the true gift.

I’ve included a few quotes that resonated with me.  Read the whole book for wisdom, wit and strategies that will provide a lifetime’s worth of guidance for artist’s and students. You can find the book in the sidebar, it is first on my Reading List.

“As a mature artist I now recognize one of life’s greatest ironies – the fact that a disability can give one the strength to compensate for the disability in ways that can, in turn, nourish unique creativity and success.”

” For those who have been told they are different, think of that difference as a blessing and never give up because in the end, perseverance can only enhance one’s creative potential and future.”

“It was profoundly insightful to realize that the creative process is nourished by experimental efforts and that failure…could be so much a part of the creative process.”

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“Excellence transcends categories and whether a piece is glass sculpture in the fine arts tradition, a murrini, a marble, a goblet, a paperweight or a bead, if one’s work is personal and is made well, it will be respected by informed art enthusiasts and other artists.”

“By seeing and experiencing great works, I have grown in artistic maturity which has broadened the foundation I stand on. The value and joy of viewing significant objects, especially when they evidence skilled virtuosity, has been to demand more from myself in the studio”

“I believed that by experiencing important work and relating to the quality evidenced by the work, I would grow stronger from the exposure.  I hoped to internalize the values that I recognized in the great works and to recapitulate the same depth of emotion into my own work.”

Lotus Orb with Honeybees

“Society needs artists every bit as much as it needs scientists, teachers, laborers, fathers, mothers and ministers.”

“…art-making is a spiritual quest and is as close to prayer as one can get to glorifying the Almighty.  Being an artist requires dedication and sacrifice as a calling equal to that of the clergy.”

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2 Responses to book review: no green berries or leaves

  1. Susan, Thank you for reviewing NGBL. What a pleasant surprise, you made my day. I enjoy your daily art offerings and encourage my students to view your post to expereince diversity of serious work. Your ability to identify and celebrate beautiful work with roots going too the decorative arts is a special gift that has touched me. Continued success with your art blog. Paul Stankard ps I love the new format.

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