Students Share the Art of Recycling: Hands On Glassblowing Event at IAIA

Staci Golar | - October 25, 2012

“ 'Glass is exciting, hot, gestural and like molten honey on the end of a honey wand,' Neff shares"

Did you know that it takes at least 4,000 years before a piece of glass in a landfill will even become round on the edges? A group of dedicated emerging and established artists do, and they are hoping to educate the public about this and other environmental and art issues with a free glass art and recycling event on Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) campus.

Co-presented by the New Mexico Experimental Glass Workshop (NMEGW) and IAIA, the Students Making Change event will shine a light on the after-effects of human consumption, while at the same time showcasing a creative way in which art and recycling can intersect. All of this takes place while participants transform discarded glass into a “sustainable currency” of stamped art coins.

Each coin’s creation will start at a crushing station where glass that has been gathered on the IAIA campus will be pulverized and fed into a furnace on wheels, also known as a mobile hot shop. Next, an event facilitator will gather a small bit of molten glass onto the end of a punti (a solid stainless steel rod), snip a small blob of the glass onto a marver (a steel table used to shape molten glass) and finally assist the participant in using a graphite block to stamp designs onto the molten glass.

Facilitators include the NMEGW staff, including Outreach Project Manager Daniel Grignon, a 2012 IAIA graduate and the first student to complete an internship with the nonprofit organization, as well as current IAIA student interns Crystal Worl, Cameron Tafoya, August Walker, Russell Frye and Monica Gutierrez.

The two organizations began working together after Worl, a Tlingit and Athabascan from Alaska, determined that she wanted to use glass to create totem poles and other art objects in her senior thesis. As one of six IAIA students to be invited to Marist College’s Venice Biennale Arts Program, held during Venice, Italy’s internationally recognized art exposition, she had studied glassblowing from Italian masters, but returned to IAIA knowing they don’t offer glass in their current curriculum. Instead of altering her artistic vision, however, Worl approached NMEGW Executive Director Stacey Neff.

“She was the 2011 IAIA Student Ambassador and arranged for me to meet with other students interested in learning the medium,” Neff recalls. “Together, with support and advice from IAIA’s Dean Ann Filemyr and Visual Arts Chair, Charlene Teters, we designed a recycled glass internship program for students. The interns help with shop maintenance, artist fellowship projects, and our hot-recycled-glass outreach events.”

At first, the group didn’t have a budget to support the student-led projects, but with the help of funding organizations like the state agency New Mexico Arts, the recycled glass projects with IAIA have gone from concept to reality.

Cameron Tafoya, a senior at IAIA who is majoring in studio arts while also working toward a small business and entrepreneurship certificate, said the Students Making Change project makes an important statement about sustainability.

“There is a lot of glass being wasted in this environment and especially in Native communities due to alcoholism," said Tafoya, who is from Jemez Pueblo. "And to use that as a medium and as a source of artwork, I feel that I have the capability to do more with glass and make a statement using glass."

While Worl has a different way of expressing it, she also values the statement that using recycled glass as a medium makes. “The Tlingit value Haa Aani is about honoring and respecting our land,” she notes. “And recycling what would have been in a landfill and creating art from it teaches our youth how to maintain respect for Haa Aani in a modern world.”

Neff concurs, adding that “Artists, as forward thinkers, must act at the front lines of environmental remediation. The arts create tools with which we think (language, symbols, memes), and by using art, we can change the notions of waste, value, ownership, and responsibility and our ability to respond.”

This event, according to Neff, will provide the “… opportunity for people to experientially address their own waste as a creative resource, rather than just an abstract, detached idea that sits in the green recycling bins.”

Don’t let the event’s serious message around environmental responsibility scare you off, however. Keep in mind that hot glass is an incredibly fun and mesmerizing medium to watch.

“Glass is exciting, hot, gestural and like molten honey on the end of a honey wand,” Neff shares.

And at Students Making Change, anyone in Santa Fe will be able to experience its magic.


For more information, email or call (505) 473-0087.

To track the NMEGW student intern’s projects, visit their blog.