This month we are proudly featuring Mike Moran, one of our most veteran glassblowing artists and instructors at Third Degree. Read more about him below!
Where are you originally from? I was born in Shelburne, VT and my family moved to Fort Lauderdale Florida when I was six. So I grew up in Florida and lived and worked there until I came to St Louis to attend graduate school at Washington University.
How did you begin working with glass? I began working with glass in 1989 shortly after graduating with a master’s degree in architecture. I worked as an assistant for an experienced glass artist, and also took evening classes at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. In the first 10 years of my work, I pursued glass arts as an avocation while I was building my career in architecture. My work during this period was sculptural and experimental. While I devoted much time to learning the craft, practicing the basic functional vessels, and learning various aspects of technique, I committed a portion of each work session at the furnace to discovery of the plastic qualities of hot glass. In this way I was able to make progress in both skill and personal expression.
What inspires you? I get inspiration from the natural world, and from the history of glass, particularly in the expression of vessel form. Maestro Tagliapietra says, “if you don’t know what has come before, how is it possible to be making something new?” I love modern design, and the simplicity of mid-century modern forms. I have especially studied the work of the Venini factory from the 40’s through the 60’s.
What’s in your toolbox? Really?! About $4,000 worth of tools and a bunch of stuff I picked up off the floor. But actually – 3 pairs of different sized jacks including Carlo Dona cup and goblet jacks, 3 pairs of tweezers of different size and shape, a pair of Dona half inch flat crimps, pointy dowel tweezers, large and regular diamond shears, tiny straight goblet shears, regular straight shears, 4 inch casting shears, duckbill shears, small sophietta, one tagliol, handle set for graphite jacks and three pairs of graphite rods, blow hose and old blow hose parts, kevlar forearm sleeve, leather gloves, Corn husk brushes, stainless steel pipe brush, tube of graphilube, torch jet rasp set, green scouring pads, a few squares of wet-dry emory paper, butter knife, awl, a bottle cork, set of allen wrenches, and a few bits of glass color – that thing is heavy physically and psychically. Don’t get me started on my what’s in my locker or in the pipe rack!
What are you working on now? I have commissions for stemware, flowers, a couple of vases, and a pitcher for a baptistry (I delivered a basin bowl last month). My next self directed project is titled “Il Vetro del Sole e Della Luna” (The Glass of the Sun and the Moon) which will feature large plates combined with sculpted sun and moon faces. I found the eclipse of last summer very inspiring.
What experiences do you teach and what do you enjoy about teaching? I work all types of hot glass experiences, and have taught intro to glass blowing and semester glass blowing classes for WashU. I like interacting with the clients during experiences and seeing their astonishment when they participate in making something from a furnace blob. Teaching is about guiding and observing discovery. Is there anything more rewarding than discovery?! I especially love finding people with a natural talent for glass, and guiding them into the material. It is so rare though, maybe 1 in 500 people will have both the intuition and physical coordination of natural talent. For the rest, it is the hard way of Craft – repetition and practice.
What do you love to do when not in the studio? I love “physical culture” and strength training, which crosses over into glass making when the Work gets large, in defeating the effects of repetitive stress (which glass blowing is full of), and when it gets hot in the summer. I trained in power lifting for many years, following the Westside Barbell Book of Methods, and Charles Staley’s escalating density program for developing athletic performance, but have in the last 6-8 years been practicing Kettlebell sport. I find that the overall body engagement of Kettlebell swinging and lifting is best for my aging body – very restorative. Paradoxically, I love drinking cold draft beer – you can find me at OB Clark’s after a long day in the hot shop!
Come and visit us to see Mike’s amazing work in our gallery! You might even see him at work in our studios!
We’re open Monday-Saturday 10:00a-5:00p and Sunday 11:00a-4:00p.