- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

Home-schoolers jump at the chance to learn at the feet of a master. That’s what I did when I recently met the internationally known artist Milon Townsend — a glass sculptor, author and speaker — as he was working in his upstate New York studio.

He was creating some of the signature artworks that have graced the covers of Omni and other magazines, and have been commissioned for such well-known figures as former President George Bush, golf legend Arnold Palmer and statesman Cyrus Vance.

Mr. Townsend’s breathtaking sculptures of the human form are juxtaposed with crystalline staircases, archways and pillars. He spins fantasy creatures — dragons and mermaids, extraterrestrials — out of flame and glass as well.

He adorns vases and goblets and perfume bottles with delicately wrought tree frogs, hummingbirds and dolphins, which can be seen in galleries and museums, or in several books he has published.

Mr. Townsend describes his genesis as an artist as he lights a high-powered blowtorch, melts several glass rods, and quickly spins and forms them into lovely shapes. Self-taught, he learned his craft by experimentation and constant effort, studying books of anatomy, photos of people in motion and even live models as references for his work.

“After making more than 100,000 human figures over the years,” he told us, “it’s now easy for me to create a human body.” He showed us the effects of using different types of glass, as well as special kilns and polishing apparatus, unique cutting tools and molds.

Despite his love of art for art’s sake, Mr. Townsend has a healthy respect for the marketplace. He divides his work into two categories: art that is mainly created to express an idea, and decorative production work that is beautiful but has the main purpose of bringing in income.

“I make some art, but I still make a good amount of production work, because my glass work exists in order to serve me, and making a good living is critical to my being able to live the life that is important to me and my family,” Mr. Townsend says.

At the same time, he is a teacher. He speaks at national events; he educates others in his work; and he writes books and produces videos on how to do glass work. While he is not a home-schooler, his love of teaching extends into his home life. His family has no television, and his son, Timo, prefers books and board games to electronic entertainment.

Creativity permeates the family. Wife Kiyoko is a culinary artist, whipping up delicious meals for a sudden entourage of visitors to their rural home and workplace. Mr. Townsend plays guitar and sings. Timo enjoys drawing as well.

The Townsends have managed to make a life that incorporates family and creative pursuits, with grandparents nearby, neighbors involved in the business, and beauty in every part of their existence.

Home-schoolers interested in the art of flameworking and glass sculpture may wish to peruse Mr. Townsend’s Web site: (www.milontownsend.com). Qualified interns may study with him for a very reasonable fee of $10 per day — working five to six hours per day and receiving personal instruction in the skills of flameworking for two hours a day.

On a related Web site (www.thebluemoonpress.com), books he has authored and videos can be purchased by those wishing to learn glasswork. A very special book, “Patriot Dreams,” is well worth the purchase price of $14.95, by the way.

A jewel box of a book, it features beautiful photos of some of Mr. Townsend’s stirring sculptures, themed to the tragic circumstances of September 11 and the triumph of love and service over hatred. Accompanying the illustrations are positive responses we can choose to hatred and violence, with plain and simple action steps outlined.

Art and inspiration are woven together to make a volume equally at home on the coffee table or a meditation corner.

• Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer living in Maryland.

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