Thursday March 2, 2017 | by Awura Ama Barnie-Duah

EXHIBITION: James Mongrain celebrates the glory of Venetian glassblowing at the Museum of Glass

Towering, taut, and ornate, 130 exquisitely blown glass works are currently on view at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, where they will remain through October 15, 2017. These are the fruits of a four-year collaboration between master glassblower James Mongrain and patron and prominent collector George R. Stroemple. Organized into four groupings entitled the Adriatico, Atlantis, Poseidon, and Arcobaleno series, the works result from Mongrain's extremely disciplined approach to traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques, and represent his response to the more than one hundred 19th-century Venetian glass objects in Stroemple's collection, which are also displayed in the exhibition. This show is an homage to the traditions that inspired Mongrain to devote his career to mastery of the techniques and aesthetic rules of this historic high-water mark for glassblowing skill.

 "[The collection] utilizes all the techniques I've learned from making Venetian-style work " Mongrain said in an email exchange with the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet about the exhibition. This style of glassblowing, with an emphasis on precision and refinement, has been the focus of much of Mongrain's career, both pursuing his own vision and helping others to realize theirs through his outstanding skills. Since 1998, Mongrain has been a lead gaffer for Dale Chihuly. He's also fabricated for major contemporary artists such as Jim Dine, Kiki Smith, and Jeff Koons.

While clearly dedicated to respecting traditions, Mongrain added: "It's important for me to make something that's new, that can hold my interest, and it needs to be honest and true."

Mongrain explained how the Stroemple collection inspired him to create work that showcases the techniques that he developed.

Putting the new and vintage works side-by-side is a high-pressure situation, but Mongrain keeps things in perspective. He told the Hot Sheet that he was "a little intimidated to have my work and the work I've seen in books together in the museum, but I hope glassblowers get a lot out of the show". 

After years of studying the masters of Venetian glass and working within the tradition of Dante, Pino, and Lino, Mongrain has put, "everything [he's] learned into this series." And he says: "It's an honor to have a show at the Museum of Glass."


James Mongrain
"Ispirazione: James Mongrain in the George R. Stroemple Collection"
Through October 15, 2017
The Museum of Glass
1801 Dock Street
Tacoma, Washington
Tel: 866.468.7386

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.