In brilliant blues, bright yellows and deep greens, the glass sculptures will seem to grow from the natural foliage in which they’ll be exhibited. Some mimic the flora; some resemble strange sea creatures, tall, tubular and gently swaying.
They are the artworks of artists—experienced and novice—at Water Street Glassworks in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where activity is heating up for an unusual display in August.
Water Street Glassworks is a nonprofit school and gallery for students young and older to create and show artworks in glass, metal, fused and stained glass, beads and more. For the August 18 Twilight in the Garden fundraiser exhibit, completed works will range from simple, evocative designs to complex sculptures with scores of pieces.
Richard Thomas and Eli Zilke are collaborating on a glass sculpture with three tiers of 27 colored “plates” and 63 spikes reaching 10 feet—140 pieces total. They will be among the 40 sculptures in the exhibit, installed in the gardens of Ronald and Barbara Weirich.
“We want to see them sell, for the school,” says Thomas, who is on the Water Street Glassworks board of directors and also volunteers in the activities there that encourage teens to explore their artistic abilities.
Margie Mattice began creating glass pieces when Water Street Glassworks opened seven years ago, the brainchild of artists Jerry and Kathy Catania. Her sculpture for the exhibit is 14-inch-tall glass flowers in a 5-foot-wide bouquet of turquoise, magenta, orange and green. Mattice took a class in metalwork, learning to weld metal to be intertwined with the glass flowers, lending textural interest and stability. “I’ve never done an entire work like this before, so it’s new and exciting,” Mattice says.
Becky Wehmer’s tall, clear, tubular glass installations will capture the sun setting on the Lake Michigan horizon in the August 18 exhibit. For Wehmer, 41, of Benton Harbor, the physics of glassblowing is fascinating. Standing on a ladder for room to swing the blowpipe with its blob of molten glass, “It’s fun to find that balance between heat and gravity,” she explains.
Her delicate glass tubes will sway slightly with the wind and provide an ethereal element amongst the garden foliage. “Water Street Glassworks is an important part of my life,” Wehmer says.
“One of the intriguing aspects of the Twilight in the Garden fundraiser is the garden setting and the very organic nature of the sculptures,” says Susan Wilczak, curator and art consultant for the project. “Overlooking Lake Michigan, the light is incredible through the glass sculptures.”