No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass

No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass

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By Paul J. Stankard
McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company
$39.95 hardcover, $29.95 paperback

This engaging autobiography by the artist Paul J. Stankard, known internationally as a master for his blown glass paperweights, columns and orbs with flameworked botanical motifs, is a testament to his strong creative and entrepreneurial spirit and lifelong quest for excellence. It is a straightforward account by a mature artist eager to acknowledge the art community that has nourished him. And it is a story of triumph over adversity. Second oldest of nine in an Irish Catholic family with college-educated parents, Stankard was the only one beset by academic difficulties, struggling for much of his life with dyslexia, a learning disability that remained undiagnosed for nearly 30 years.

Trained in the early 1960s in scientific glassblowing at South Jersey's Salem County Vocational Technical Institute (now Salem Community College), Stankard, in addition to discovering his passion for glassblowing, learned hand skills, practical knowledge, safety and respect for workmanship, lessons that would serve him well in his artistic career. In the early 1970s,
encouraged by his wife, Pat, Stankard turned from glassblowing in a factory setting, to self-employment in creative object making, assuming the economic, technical, aesthetic, conceptual and risk-taking aspects involved in making art.

Stankard traces the "obstacles and uncertainties" he and his family faced in establishing himself as an independent artist. He describes fruitful exchanges with professional mentors and significant interactions with collectors, dealers and contemporary masters in the studio glass movement that emerged in the 1960s and 70s. (In contrast to many glass artists in the movement, Stankard began his artistic career with expertise in his medium.) Also discussed is his strong involvement with Wheaton Village, a repository of glass history in South Jersey, and his role-inspired by Dale Chihuly's role in the founding of the Pilchuck Glass School-in the development of the Creative Glass Center of America there.

Initially an extraordinary craftsman and paperweight artist, Stankard deployed carefully researched glass color combinations and evocative texture in invented nature studies. He progressed to lyrical visual narratives that incorporate his expressive root people, who communicate the "unseen miracles of life" within unique sculptural glass botanicals-illustrated in the "photographic journey" that concludes the book. Appropriately, the mastery displayed so abundantly in Stankard's exacting art is paralleled in words in this moving chronicle of a successful life.