Meet the Glass Artist Q&A: 2013 Award Winner Josh Simpson

Josh Simpson is one of Western Massachusetts’ best known, most prolific and successful glass artists, whose portfolio has enhanced gallery exhibits and private collections throughout the world. His glasswork can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Yale University Art Gallery and museums in Prague, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and Canada.

A longtime supporter of community arts, Simpson was instrumental in starting the glass blowing program at Snow Farm, The New England Craft Program in Williamsburg, MA. In 1985, he co-founded and was also the first president of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, a national foundation that has helped many hundreds of artists survive personal crises, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Irene. He has also been President and Treasurer of the Glass Art Society, and a member since 1972. Simpson is married to chemist and researcher Cady Coleman, the 30th woman in space, the 333rd astronaut, and NASA’s senior most active astronaut. Read more of his bio at Josh Simpson Universe and get updates on new work from his website and Facebook profile.

What first interested you in working in your medium?

I think what initially piqued my curiosity, and has now commanded my attention for well over 40 years, is how impossibly challenging it is to work with glass. It is a ridiculously hot viscous liquid that obeys only gravity and centripetal forces. The challenge for me as an artist is to coax this molten material into a shape and form that I want it to be in.

What is special about the medium you work with? How does it inform the work you create? 

The magic of glass is its translucency. I can bend and magnify or diminish the light around it.  Even the shadows of glass objects have color!

What do you love about your workspace? 

I live among the hills of Western Massachusetts. The landscape and sky here is inspiration for much of the glass that I make. From where I sit at my bench I can see more than 50 miles down the valley. There are days when the drama of the ever-changing view down the valley, thunderstorms, snow squalls, clouds, sunlight and the changing seasons make it hard for me to work! 

There is no light pollution here. At night I have a perfect view of the sky and because I often have to adjust my glass furnaces at totally odd hours, I am sometimes rewarded by the most amazing views of the night sky. Aurora Borealis, the Milky Way, constellations, lightening, satellites, the Space Station... it’s all there. It’s taken me more than 40 years to configure my studio so that it’s exactly the way I want it. It is probably one of the best-equipped glass facilities in the world, and it’s perfect for me to create the glass that I’m known for.

What was your inspiration for a recent piece?

My most recent work is a series of “Corona Platters,” meant to evoke the wonder of the universe that I feel when I look at Hubble and Chandra Space Telescope images. 

You can preview the work of the 2013 Craft Show award winner for excellence in glass here


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