On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Boyertown High School art students unveiled their final projects to Will Dexter, owner of the world renowned Taylor Backes Glass Studio of Boyertown.
Earlier in the month Thomas Dareneau, an art teacher at the high school, took his students on the first of a two field trips to the studio.
While there, the students were asked to photograph the images that inspired them. Working from the photos they took each student would then spend as many as thirty hours working on on their drawings before returning to Taylor Backes to show the Backes team what they had come up with.
This year, the high school’s art program made a conscious push towards the conceptual and away from technique, giving the students more freedom with their work.
“The students work is really good and their techniques are improving,” stated Dareneau.
The teacher proudly took pictures of his students as they showed and explained their work to Dexter and his team of artists. The students found much to inspire them hidden among the many treasures.
The gallery is a feast for the eyes with its shelves adorned with hand blown glass pieces of every color, shape and size. From the very intricate to the modestly simplistic pieces the students found inspiration was abundant.
For Allison Landino, inspiration came from a glass, hand-blown heart-shaped piece. Smaller than her palm the heart was a vibrant red on the inside surrounded then by clear glass.
“I used the heart as a metaphor for inner beauty and it made me think of my sister. She thinks she is plain like the clear glass but inside she is so beautifu,” said Landino.
Her work was a portrait of her bright eyed sister wearing the heart around her neck.
For other students it was the odd shapes and the reflection of light off the glass they chose to capture, their drawings so well done the images appeared almost fluid as if they might flow right off the paper.
Following the show and tell, the students were then treated to an up close look at how the glass is blown. Touring the back room, the students were first shown the massive, hand built furnaces and ovens before circling around to watch as Tim Frankenfeild and Maggie Gallen carefully manipulated blobs of glowing red goo into brilliant shapes. In a poetic twist it seemed the glass became a metaphor for the students.
Watching Frankenfield and Gallen as they worked with the heated glass it was clear the glass could not be told what to become. Rather it was the addition of the the proper environment, paying close attention to the immediate needs of the glass and through gentle coaxing the glass was able to reveal its truest shape and beauty.
Similarly, a teacher cannot tell a student whom or what to become. However, if provided with the right conditions and proper nurturing a student has the ability, much like the glass, to change from something as ordinary as a grain of sand into a one of a kind work of art.
For anyone interested in visiting the gallery you are welcome to stop by and even sign up for a class. Often times visitors to the gallery come for nothing more than a chance to brighten their spirits. A quick fix to the grey winter blues may be stopping in to watch the artists at work, basking in the warmth of the ovens and allowing your eyes to dance from one source of beauty to the next.
A fun fact, perhaps not known to many, is the work produced here is in use all over the world. In fact, Taylor Backes pieces have even been commissioned for the Academy Awards.
That’s right, “Boyertown is in Hollywood,” as Dexter puts it.
With work on display at the Smithsonian and a a reputation among studying artists as being the alternative to graduate school, stopping by the Taylor Backes Gallery is a little like shaking hands with a superstar.