If you can breathe, you can blow glass.
But learning to create lasting works of art from molten material takes a lifetime of practice, and a little help from your friends.
“To learn glass blowing, it’s on the order of years to get basically proficient,” said Jeffrey Mentuck, who manages Salem State University’s Glassworks Studio. “People chase that technical perfection for years.”
For glass blowers who want to go even further, and develop from professional craftsmen into creative artists, Salem State is now hosting the Rosenberg Institute for Passionate and Emerging Artists.
“A lot of times, in the early stages of a career, work is derivative, while they’re building skills,” Mentuck said. “Then, you need to apply your own artistic vision, and that’s what a residency like this is great for — an opportunity for the exploration of ideas.”
The first group of four glass blowers selected for the program will be at Salem State throughout the month and will demonstrate their visions each Monday night in studio sessions that are open to the public.
“A part of their application process was to explain how an opportunity like this would benefit them,” Mentuck said. “Ideally, they’ll leave here with one foot more firmly in the arts camp than the crafts camp.”
As a glass blower with 20 years’ experience, Mentuck knows exactly how valuable such a residency can be.
“If you rent a glass studio, it’s 50 or 60 bucks an hour,” he said, a figure that doesn’t include expenses for materials. “There’s not a lot of freedom to mess up at the higher stages. If you spend a day, you can end up spending 600 or 800 bucks.”
It was to take such burdens off glass blowers, and allow them to exercise their imaginations, that Ira and Judy Rosenberg of Swampscott established the institute that bears their name.