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Building a Relationship with Glass

glass sculptures on display by DH McNabb
Glass artist DH McNabb with his pieces “Spherical Horizon(s)” and “Crystal Prism(s)” after JG Ballard’s “The Crystal World.” Both works were made during a residency at the Saint-Louis Crystal Factory in France.


Glass is a particularly beguiling material. It’s so common around us, so everyday, and yet very few people have actually worked with glass as the scorching hot, malleable substance it is coming out of a furnace. Even then, an artist can only get to know it through a certain separation, using jacks and blocks and paddles as extensions of the fingers. The work is quick, but it takes years to develop facility and fluidity with it.

DH McNabb knows this slowly-blooming relationship as well as anyone. For nearly two decades, he’s worked with glass as a student, assistant, teacher, artist, and collaborator. It’s taken him to graduate school and around the world—Seattle, New York, Japan, Italy, Istanbul, Prague. Even now, he sees his career in glass as a process. “I am not consumed with immediate success, but instead with a long-term practice and relationship with this material,” he explains. “Glass is a communicative endeavor, at times a struggle. It is not something you master in one year or five or ten.”


glass mangrove root sculpture
Detail of “Mangroves” by DH McNabb


All questions of mastery aside, DH has developed impressive glass skills. His portfolio of work includes neon signs, delicate stemware, orbs with shifting color gradations, sharply reflective crystal prisms, and the branching roots of a mangrove rendered in barely-green translucent glass. The ideas behind them are as varied as the works themselves: they reference history, explore light and landscape, speak to transience and memory, and investigate our perceptions of value.

This fall, DH will be coming to Penland to teach an 8-week concentration in the hot shop, and the workshop will have loads to offer aspiring and established glass artists alike. Titled (in)between, it will start by establishing a vocabulary of shapes and solid communication as the foundations for a wide range of directions in glass. Students will be encouraged to explore the forms and ideas that interest them, from functional goblets to conceptual sculptures. Nothing could sum it up better than the final line of DH’s course description: “We’ll assist each other, we’ll fail together, and somewhere through this we’ll succeed with our own material voice.”

Registration is currently open for (in)between and Penland’s other fall workshops. A handful of scholarships are also available for concentrations in glass, clay, metals, photography, and wood. Apply now and join us in the studios this September 24 – November 17!


glass sculpture
“Phantom Limbs” by DH McNabb



DH McNabb
September 24 – November 17, 2017

This workshop will be a journey that teeters between art and design. We’ll start by making and replicating basic shapes and then venture into other shapes that will become part of each individual’s voice. We’ll experience making from both sides of the pipe, learning what the assistant can do to better help the maker and what the maker can do to better communicate with the assistant. We’ll cover a range of color applications and discover new ones. Techniques will include cane, murrine, incalmo, and folding. Readings, drawing, walks, and other activities will help you conjure ideas from functional usefulness to thought-provoking concepts. We’ll assist each other, we’ll fail together, and somewhere through this we’ll succeed with our own material voice. All levels. Studio fee: $140. Code F00GA

DH McNabb is a studio artist who has taught at Centre College (KY), Pilchuck Glass School (WA), and the Chrysler Museum (VA). His work has been exhibited in spaces including 12 Gallery (Norway), a space (NYC), and Steel Yard Gallery (RI) and is in the collections of the Corning Museum (NY) and Fondation Hermés (Paris).



clay  |  glass  |  iron  |  metals  |  photography  |  wood  |  mixed media
September 24 – November 17, 2017
Register here