Washington Glass Studio
After a long train ride followed by a short night’s sleep, Michael Janis picked me up in the morning and drove me to the Washington Glass Studio for my visit with several DC area artists last month.
Michael Janis explains his process to me
My whirlwind tour of WGS and the surrounding studios really started on that car ride as Michael explained the history and mission of WGS as well as the climate of the DC art community.
Work in the kiln
A quiet, contemplative man with a quick wit, Michael was my go-to guy for information about the studio, welcoming my curiosity and never faltering as I asked numerous questions.
The image Janis was working on, before firing this layer
The former architect has been making art since 2003, when he embraced the decision to switch careers and threw himself into learning everything he could about glass. New to the DC area, one day he walked into Tim Tate’s place and took a class, then another, and another, until he had taken just about every class they offered. He eventually signed on as studio coordinator, later becoming a partner in WGS. While the art is thought provoking and often haunting (read an earlier post about Michael Janis here), the man is open, down to earth, at ease with sharing information and conversation.
Tim Tate and Elizabeth Ryland Mears
One of the busiest and most productive studios on the East coast, Washington Glass Studio was founded in 2001 by Tim Tate and Erwin Timmers. Tate, a major player in the Washington DC art scene, is a widely exhibited, award winning artist (read earlier posts about him here and here).
Tim Tate’s Seasonal Changes
you can see it this weekend at SOFA Chicago
I was chatting with Erwin when Tim walked into the studio. We were meeting for the first time, but that didn’t stop him from greeting me with a bear hug, a warm smile and a hearty laugh – just what I expected and happily returned.
Tim Tate’s work table
(note the cast glass finials – anatomically correct hearts)
In many ways Tate is the heart and soul of the building and beyond. He wears his big heart on his sleeve (no, really…a tattoo) and he is largely responsible for cultivating the positive, supportive attitude at WGS. The atmosphere is infused with energy, openness and sharing. They are a family of like-minded individuals, of engaging and engaged artists who help each other move forward as they walk the path of the working artist. Tate encourages artists to band together in this way and believes wholeheartedly that when one of them succeeds everyone benefits.
Tim Tate, Seven Waking Dreams of Man
blown and cast glass, mixed media, video
Noticeably missing from the studio were Tim Tate’s interactive sculptures – just days earlier they shipped out to SOFA Chicago - this weekend you can meet Tate and Janis at SOFA Chicago and see their work (links below). That isn’t the only thing they share – both were recently named as Fulbright Scholars, an honor that will bring them to the UK some time in the near future. Heartfelt congratulations – a well deserved honor indeed.
Erwin Timmers checking on work in the kiln
Inside WGS, the first person I talked to was co-founder Erwin Timmers. Originally from Amsterdam, Timmers was a metal sculptor before he started experimenting with discarded glass, eventually turning exclusively to glass and now coming full circle, combining the recycled glass with recycled metal. Conversation with the leading DC area ‘eco’ artist shifted easily from his art to his family and the delicate balancing act that ties the two together.
Hot. The kiln that Erwin was monitoring was so hot I was afraid if I got any closer to take the picture it would melt my lens!
Timmers’ glass and metal floor lamp (all recycled materials)
His transition sculpture – one of the first to combine glass with metal – this stands in the entryway of the studio
WGS is home to several other glass artists including Studio Coordinator Robert Kincheloe, who showed me one of the beautiful individual components in his steel and glass sculpture, Tree of Life. This piece is another example of the supportive atmosphere among the artists at WGS. Renowned glass artist Elizabeth Ryland Mears, who teaches here, urged Rob to consider using his glass beads in a larger piece of sculpture – Tree of Life is the result of that conversation.
Robert Kincheloe, Tree of Life
flameworked and coldworked glass, steel
I did not have the opportunity to meet most of the other WGS artists on my short visit, but hope to get to know them when I intern there early next year. As I walked through the studio Michael pointed out their works in progress and at lunch I found myself sitting across from Sean Hennessey, whose concrete and glass wall sculptures I admired on that walk through the studio (lunch was delicious authentic Peruvian food – thank goodness for Sean and Erwin, who were able to translate for us or I would have had no idea what I was ordering).
Sean Hennessy, Share, glass, concrete, steel, 24×12
An accomplished painter and sculptor, Sean’s early career included ten years with the renowned Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC where he was responsible for all painting and sculpting of stage props and set decoration. He also painted Tim Tate’s apartment in a trade of art with Tate (more about that in the links below – be sure to watch the video clip of Tate’s apartment and see Sean’s painting skills featured in the clip).
Perhaps the description Hennessey wrote about Share, the piece seen above, says it best about life at WGS: We share what we have.
There are many stories at Washington Glass Studio – stories of deep roots and new growth; of illness and family; of building the kind of community you want to live in; of healing and living large with love, hard work, humor, friendship and kindness. I am eager to return and share this vibrant community of artists with you – I promise you will be inspired.
Sean Hennessey website
Michael Janis website
Rob Kincheloe website
Elizabeth Mears website
Tim Tate website
Erwin Timmers website
Interactive panorama of Tim Tate’s DC apartment
Washington Post article about Tate’s apartment
Video tour of Tate’s apartment – also showcases the faux brick wall that Sean Hennessey painted in the apartment (I believe all of the faux wall surface treatments were done by Hennessey).