GLASS ART AS A PROFESSION
We encounter glass everywhere in our daily lives. It is made into consumer products and optics. As a building material, glass lets light into rooms. Using glass as a means of artistic expression is a growing trend throughout the world. Glass has many distinctive characteristics, but its unique property – transparency – enables us to see through it, and to see what is occurring inside of it.
Events related to glass art attract more than just specialists. Watching artists work with hot glass is interesting, a dance performance of sorts. Examples are the happenings organised at the Olustvere glass workshop; the international appeal of the Haapsalu White Glass Days; and the glassblowing in Tallinn’s St. Catherine’s Passage, which attracts many tourists.
During our short period of independence, we have earned a respected position in the world of glass art. We represent a unique and developing direction that embodies essential values, well-thought-out creative concepts and searches in form. The students are encouraged to focus on their own styles, and to search for singular creative viewpoints.
Awards made of glass are very popular for their expressiveness and optical properties. And clients are often ready to purchase glass items as gifts, as well as interior and exterior design elements. Of course, glassware is used for serving food and beverages – the transparency of the glass emphasises the nature of the offering, and allows one to play with layering. A project called “Food and Dishes,” which was started in 2011 by the Academy of Arts, in collaboration with various catering institutions, is an illustrative example of synergy that can develop from needs and opportunities.
The performance arts often make use of the opportunities provided by glass artists. A project called “Glass World”, which was created in cooperation with Norwegian musicians, brought glass instruments to the stage, along with the sounds charmed out of them by talented musicians. Glass art is also used in stage design. Glass can be transparent or delicately matte; it can distort images, or reflect them.
One of the important missions of the Estonian Academy of Art and the Department of Glass Art is to preserve and develop cultural heritage, including traditional techniques, and to maintain and restore cultural values. Over the years, the stained glass windows in many Estonian churches (Ruhnu, Paide, Tallinn’s Church of the Holy Spirit, etc.) have been reconstructed by the department’s students and personnel.
Our master’s programme also deals with neologisms; we think it is important to supplement and develop specialised glass-related terminology, because foreign words are still commonly used.
Finding applications for new technologies in glassmaking is a developing trend in the world. The following examples could be mentioned: abrasive water jet cutting, which allows very complicated shapes to be created out of glass; 3D printing and other printing techniques; laminating, and much more.
NATURE OF THE DEPARTMENT, ITS MENTALITY AND PHILOSOPHY
An internationally recognised curriculum. Its aim is to educate glass artists who have universal skills, broad horizons and many options. Positive experiences, during the study process, are just as important as a successful end result.
Openness. We have a curriculum that is internationally recognised by our colleagues and the world’s glass artists. We consider openness and international cooperation to be an important part of the studies. An affinity with the specialised trends at home and around the world is just as important for a beginner artist as are contacts and creative freedom.
Competency. Familiarity with specialised skills provides the artist or designer with the best opportunities for self-expression, and for raising questions and finding solutions.
Caring. We want to value every individual, and to create opportunities for them to develop and apply their potential in the best way.
WHAT ARE THE STUDIES LIKE?
We study both theoretical and practical subjects in our speciality. At the beginning of the studies, we provide broad-based information about the opportunities offered by the speciality. While at the master’s level, narrower specialisation is possible. Based on the specifics of the subject, we also visit workshops outside of the academy. For polishing one’s skills in cold processing, molten glass techniques and hot processing, the department provides small workshops with modern equipment. Every semester, a project is completed under the guidance of the faculty members and masters, which may often end up in exhibitions or public environments. The courage to experiment and participation in cross-discipline projects have become the calling card of our department. We often organise master’s classes with foreign faculty members and support the students’ “travelling years” – study periods at partner schools and practical training in European glassworks.
• Establishing concepts for the development of visual and verbal expression skills
• Studies based on practical skills to enable free self-expression
• Collaborative projects with other specialities and private firms, as well as a balanced rotation of individual and group work
For more about the curriculum and class schedule
GLASS ART AT THE ACADEMY OF ARTS
If glass, as a man-made material, is already 5,000 years old, then the earliest archaeological evidence of glass workshops operating in Estonia take us back to the years between 1628 and 1664, when the Hüti glass workshop operated on Hiiumaa Island. In the 19th century, already dozens of smaller and larger glass-manufacturing workshops and factories operated in Estonia. In 1934, the Lorup Glassworks were established in Tallinn, which were soon producing very high quality goods, in both the technical and artistic sense, and which were competitive throughout Europe. The Tarbeklaas factory, which operated on the same premises during the Soviet era, was known for its very contemporary, beautifully proportioned design.
Glassmaking started to be taught at the State Industrial Arts School in 1936. This small workshop developed into today’s Department of Glass Art. Prof. Maks Roosma, who provided the basis for the artistic orientation, established his own school of glass art, that still forms the basis for much of the work today – meaningful reasoning combined with a perfect form and technique; a symbiosis of manual skills and creative ideas.
The turning point in both professional instruction, and Estonian glass art as whole, came in the 1990s, when the studio glass movement arrived in Estonia. This movement, which had gathered strength in the West already in the 1960s, focused on glass art that was free of an industrial orientation, and was produced in artists’ workshops. Today, there are many glassblowing studios in Estonia, along with workshops that cultivate design, stained glass, and furnace techniques, where the artist-designer’s creative freedom is not limited by anything. In 1993, the glass art speciality was separated from the ceramics department and started to develop in its own direction – free and distinctive.
From the standpoint of glass education, 2006 was also a revolutionary year. In that year, at the initiative of the glass art department, the first international conference on glass education called Meeting Point I was held in Tallinn along with Discovery, an exhibition of works by European students of glass art. These events formed the basis for many long-term collaborative projects and exchange programmes. Today, our students have the opportunity to study glass art as exchange students at many European universities and practical training centres.