- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Barrie Kaufman has only been working with glass for a couple of years, but this fall, the long-time printmaker and painter is partnering with Blenko Glass Company, of Milton, for a special collaborative project focusing on clean water and sustainability.

Kaufman said that last year’s water crisis is the inspiration behind the project, which will consist of 10 to 20 hand-blown glass water droplets.

“I feel very passionate about the importance of clean water,” Kaufman said.

“The water crisis in 2014 felt traumatic to me, and it brought something to my awareness. I think I understood the importance of clean water so much more when affected directly.”

Kaufman worked with glass artist Karen Willenbrink from Bow, Washington, and the Lhotsky Glass Studio in Zelezny Brod, Czech Republic, for an exhibit at the Clay Center last year, but approached Blenko about this specific project because she wanted to have the project made in and composed of products from West Virginia.

“Glass has been an integral part of West Virginia’s industry, and I feel that industry partnering with artistry is unique,” Kaufman said.

“I also think that Blenko is a special facility, and we are lucky to have a working glass factory like this. It’s a treasure in West Virginia, and I want to bring continued awareness of its importance in the state and nation.”

Dean Six, vice president of marketing for Blenko, said the company’s collaboration with local artists isn’t necessarily a new approach, but they haven’t “been as active with it in recent years”. So, when Kaufman came to them, they welcomed the partnership.

“Any time there is someone involved in the creative process, we jump on the opportunity to work together,” Six said. “We’re one big extended family, and it brings great potential to the state.”

Alissa Novoselick, executive director of the Tamarack Artisan Foundation, has been working with Kaufman to promote the project and her other works.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Barrie as she develops this piece of work,” Novoselick said.

“As a traditional printmaker and painter, her movement into glass is an important extension of her prolific career. I look forward to seeing it come together in the upcoming months.”

Novoselick added that the joint effort between Kaufman and Blenko are beneficial for all involved.

“The Tamarack Foundation believes collaborative projects like these - between West Virginia’s individual artists, larger artist businesses such as Blenko, and places like The Pittsburgh Glass Center - are important reflections of the creative economy of our state. Cultivating opportunities for artists outside of West Virginia, with subject matter relevant to our daily lives, is an important value we must support and uphold.

To create the droplets, Kaufman crafted a clay mold and sketched an architectural drawing, which was then given to a mold maker at Blenko to create another mold made of cherry wood. Glassmakers blow into the mold to create the glass. The droplets are blown whole, before being sliced in two to create a flat back so that they’re able to be hung on a wall.

Once the droplets are finished, Kaufman will have them to use for her own purposes either display or sale, in the coming months.

“I hope to produce more, but we’re still in the development stage” she said.

Kaufman hopes the pieces will not only tell a story, but also educate.

“Besides making a beautiful object, I hope to bring awareness of deeper issues,” Kaufman said.

“These droplets are a symbol of the value of clean water.”

In addition to her collaboration with Blenko, Kaufman’s cast glass piece “Icy Burning”, which she made at the Lhotsky Studio in Zelzny Brod, Czech Republic, will be on display through Sunday at the AiBo Gallery at SOFA Chicago at the Navy Pier, and she will begin a glass residency at Pittsburgh Glass Center in November. Her work there will also represent the water crisis.

For more on Barrie Kaufman and her work, visit www.barriekaufman.com.

To learn more about Blenko, visit www.blenko.com.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.

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