Art glass celebration

Inaugural Chico Glass Fest brings world-famous glass artists to town during Artoberfest

HOUSE OF GLASS<br>Student Ben Lucas works on a piece in Chico State’s renowned Hot Shop glass studio.

Student Ben Lucas works on a piece in Chico State’s renowned Hot Shop glass studio.

Photo By matt siracusa

On the face of it, Jeff Lindsay and Robert Herhusky seem like opposites.

Lindsay—the owner of Red Hot Metal Inc., the in-demand, south Chico metal fabrication firm that makes precision tools for glass artists worldwide—comes across as calm, composed and low-key.

Glass and wood sculptor Herhusky, on the other hand, possesses a Tigger (the tiger)-like intensity. He has an exuberant, rapid-fire manner of conversing as he moves purposefully around Chico State’s “Hot Shop” glass studio, where he is teacher and coordinator for the university’s highly regarded art-glass program.

Both men, though, are charming. And both are the movers and shakers behind Chico Glass Fest 2008, along with Artoberfest organizer Debra Lucero. Lindsay and Herhusky are quick to heap praise upon the Friends of the Arts director for her tenacity, and organizational and fundraising abilities. The power trio is responsible for organizing the inaugural festival that will be held in conjunction with this year’s 22nd annual California Glass Exchange conference.

Chico Glass Fest is bringing some of the top names in glass art to town for the celebration, which includes a lively two-day public component of celebrity glassblowers giving demonstrations (to live music by local musicians) in a mobile hot shop parked in Sierra Nevada Brewery’s hops field. Among the visiting artists are Washington state heavy-hitters John de Wit and Boyd Sugiki, graceful L.A. glass queen Katherine Gray and Australia’s Nick Mount.

“Lots of well-known people are coming to Chico,” glowed Lindsay. “We tried to compile a list of visiting artists with some connection to Chico State. Joe Morel [of Zellique Art Glass in Benicia, Calif.] is a Chico State graduate and a former Orient & Flume employee.” The same goes for nationally known Roberta Eichenberg, who teaches glass art at Emporia State University in Kansas.

Both Lindsay and Herhusky are particularly excited by the appearance of Richard Marquis, also from Washington. The Evergreen State is a hotbed of glass artists owing largely to the fact that it’s the home state of glass sculptor and founder of the revered Pilchuck Glass School, Dale Chihuly, a name virtually synonymous with world-class glass art.

Marquis is famously known for his tiny glass version of the Lord’s Prayer using the murrine technique he learned in Italy as a Fulbright scholar.

A GLASSMAN’S MAN<br>Jeff Lindsay is <i>the man</i> when it comes to glassblowing tools. Artists from around the world use his locally fabricated designs. And Lindsay, along with Chico State’s art-glass program coordinator Robert Herhusky and Artoberfest organizer Debra Lucero, is responsible for organizing the first-ever Chico Glass Fest.

Photo By matt siracusa

“Dick Marquis did the Lord’s Prayer in 1972 right here in this studio, when he was at Berkeley,” marveled Herhusky. “We didn’t have enough money [to bring Marquis], but Jeff twisted his arm. Jeff knows everybody because he makes all the tools and goes to all the shows.”

Herhusky continued, beaming, “A lot of famous artists are coming to town for this event. My students are going, ‘Wow—we get to see all these people working!'”

In previous years, the popular CGE conference—"a regional glass exchange of ideas and information,” according its Web site—was held during the summer and rotated, for the most part, through campuses in the CSU system. This year was Chico’s turn.

Lindsay was instrumental earlier this year in persuading organizers of the conference—whom he knows from his many years of peddling his glassmaking tools at various glass conferences—to change the date to coincide with Artoberfest. He also pitched the idea of hosting public demonstrations of glassblowing at Sierra Nevada to brewery owner and longtime friend Ken Grossman.

“He was all over it,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay sat down with Lucero and Herhusky, who participated in the CGE conference in 1999, the last time it was held at Chico State, and the three came up with a three-day glass extravaganza that promises to do Chico—home of world-renowned glassmaking firms Orient & Flume and Satava Art Glass—proud.

“The conference moves around,” said Lindsay, “but I would like to see [Glass Fest] become an annual event here. It’s such a perfect fit for Artoberfest.”