Flame Run Gallery’s Glass Sculptures Attract Young Readers

A fine art glass studio might sound like an unlikely venue for a kid-friendly exhibit, but Flame Run Gallery’s “Bookworms,” a show of glass art inspired by children’s literature, is definitely an all-ages show. 

“I get that a lot,” gallery manager and exhibit curator Tiffany Ackerman says with a laugh. “But this isn’t the first child-friendly show we’ve had here.”

“Bookworms” features glass art depictions of iconic images from well-known kids’ books, both classic (“Charlotte’s Web,” “Alice in Wonderland”) and contemporary, like the vampire rabbit “Bunnicula” and Ackerman’s “Monster Book of Monsters” from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.

“Why glass for books? It’s not necessarily something you’d connect,” says Ackerman. “I’ve been working with glass and around glass for ten years, and it’s still magic to me. And I feel the same way when I look at a book cover. You have no idea what’s going on inside the book.”

“I think using the magic of one to inspire the other really works,” she adds.  

When Ackerman describes her piece, her face lights up. She says she started reading the Harry Potter books when her eight-year-old clarinet student gushed about the fourth installment in the series, and she fell in love with Rowling’s vivid, visually-rich writing style. Ackerman used a variety of glass-crafting techniques to create her “Monster Book of Monsters” sculpture, which features smooth covers studded in gnarled teeth and tiny eyeballs, with a pink glass tongue unfurling from the pages. She calls it her glass collage.

“It is stained glass and hot-formed glass all sort of mixed together,” says Ackerman. “It has a glass cover, slices of sheet glass that have been stacked together to look like pages, and then his big teeth and bookmark tongue and his monster eyes are all made of blown glass.”

“Bookworms” offers Flame Run patrons the opportunity to see a variety of techniques and glass media in one show, including mixed media pieces and borosilicate glass (known in the home cooking world as Pyrex). 

“We are a blown glass studio, so most of our stuff is hot-worked,” says Ackerman. “But this exhibit has a little bit of everything. There is slumped glass, flame-worked glass, blown glass, and cast glass.”

A quick primer for the uninitiated: Blown glass is what you see made in the open studios, glass charged in a furnace and blown into shapes. Flame-worked (or lamp-worked) glass is usually (but not always) hard borosilicate glass that’s melted and manipulated in front of a torch. Slumped glass is cold glass that’s heated up in a kiln, and it fuses together when it gets hot enough. Stained glass is cold cut and attached with hot metal, and cast glass involves melting glass inside a negative mold.

Louisville glass artist Amy Pender used hot-worked glass to create her “Velveteen Rabbit,” and the effect is eerie –  from a distance, the sculpture looks like fabric, but aside from copper whiskers and button eyes, the entire rabbit is made of glass.

“He’s actually sand-blasted, so it takes the shine right off,” says Ackerman. “It makes him look like the little worn velveteen rabbit after he’s been loved for all those years.” 

The show runs through November 23 at Flame Run, which is located inside the Glassworks building on West Market Street.

The National Center for Family Literacy is a co-sponsor of the exhibit, and Friday evening (6-9 p.m.) the gallery will celebrate national family literacy day with a kid-focused reception including story time, glass blowing demonstrations and blow-your-own ornament sessions. A portion of the ornament cost will be donated to the Center for Family Literacy. 

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