Forming a Glass Legacy
Patrick Martin was steadily working toward a bachelor’s in economics and management from Centre College in Kentucky when he was faced his senior year with taking an art class in order to graduate.
And a requirement soon became a passion.
“It’s the physicality of it,” says Martin, who picked a glass-blowing class. “The total focus of it. That’s why I became obsessed with working with glass.
“I found I was a natural pyro. Working with my hands, the physical activity hooked me.”
Hooked on art, Martin went on to earn an MFA in Glass from Tulane University. He is now interim chair of the Emporia State Art Department and head of the glass program.
Emporia State’s glass program, now 30 years old, is the only one in Kansas and is world-renowned. Students gain the benefit of the Emporia State tradition and plenty of hands-on experience.
“I can say we have the strongest program in the region,” says Martin.
Hours working with glass under the supervision of an accomplished glass blower — Martin has won numerous awards and spent four years under the tutelage of Fulbright Research scholar David Huchthausen — is the best training for the skills it takes to be a master of this ancient art.
Martin explains how producing glass art must be done in a single process and “you have to become totally absorbed in the material.”
“I think he is a great professor,” Kelsey Lutz told Hubing Lu of the Emporia State Bulletin. “I think all the students (at Emporia State) are really lucky to have a professor that cares as much and contributes as much as (Martin) does,” added Megan Stelljes.
When Martin arrived at Emporia State, students were working individually, something he knew could be done a better way.
“We introduced students to working in a more contemporary style. There’s strength in numbers. A team of four is better than just one. In this way, our students practice what is done in the real world.”
Another key ingredient Martin believes helps better prepare Emporia State students is working with professional artists visiting the campus. He typically has two to four artists come to Emporia State each year. Students not only get to watch these masters at work, they get to work along side them, too.
“Our students learn from them in a hands-on way the little tricks and techniques of turning glass into art,” he explains.
Not only can these learning experiences result in a good contact, it can often turn into an internship or full-time job. Three of his former students are working in Seattle, a hotbed for the arts, because of these learning opportunities. And Martin finds almost as much pleasure in his student’s success as he does his own art.
“I love the fact that students become more skilled than me.”
Addison Hanna recalled one such meeting with guest artist Jasen Johnsen, who with his wife Karen Willenbrink Johnsen is known for their magnificent sculpted glass owls. She was able to observe him at work and was blown away by his techniques.
“The entire time I tried to think ahead to what I’m going to be doing and then he does some trick I never even thought of,” she recalls. “I’m like ‘wow, that makes way more sense.’ You pick up so many more tricks of the trade.”
Hanna also noted that it is rare for a school of Emporia State’s size, where individual attention is a blessing, to have glass studios.
“The school helps produce top notch artists.”
Adapted from a Quest feature story by Bill Noblitt