Art Glass Blossoms in Downtown Juneau

May’s “First Friday” walk in Juneau, Alaska included 10 art openings and events downtown in the state capital.

At the Canvas Community Art Studio and Gallery on Seward Street, a group of five Southeast Alaskan glass artists offered a whimsical show that included a wide range of glass-working techniques.

Beyond the Pane: Artistry in Glass included pieces shaped by coldworking, traditional stain glass painting, blasting, kilnworking, glass blowing, kilncasting (a lost wax process), engraving and lampworking.

The title refers to the common presence of glass in our lives, in windows and drinking glasses, as well as “the ‘pain’ involved with being a glass artist. Not just the physical pain of burns and cuts, but the battle within ourselves and the desire to ‘conquer’ the glass”.

The glass has “a mind of its own” which forces the artists to adapt and respond as they make their pieces.

Heidi Johnson, of Raven’s Eye Studio, created a series of hand-painted leaded glass panels inspired by Japanese prints, but set in Juneau.

In one of my favourites, Latte Ceremony, a Japanese lady in a Kimono holds a cardboard coffee takeout cup marked with the Northwest Coast style Heritage Coffee logo. The framing glass seems to have been masked with Japanese textile patterns and sandblasted, the patterns revealed in the contrast between the matte and clear glass.

Nell McConahey described herself as the “flower child” at the opening. Her art workplace is called “Spiral Studio ( She had a wide range of floral works on display, including a Planted Flower Series. Three over-sized flowers made entirely of glass sprouted out of terracotta pots. A kiln formed hand trowel and cultivator, also in glass, sat on the rough wooden table beside them.

She also displayed a wide range of bowls and plates. Single (real) purple tulips spouted from rectilinear ikebana bowls supported with florist’s frogs in a square reservoir of water. In her other tableware, she combines clear and coloured glass in intriguing ways.

Sara Chatfield, of Haines, Alaska, showed a collection of nine- or six-inch square black-edged tiles. They’re kiln-formed glass, but the colours seem stirred, or at least heated higher than any other kiln-formed glass I’ve seen before.

Her Jovian Planet is split into upper and lower hemispheres, but each hemisphere is formed of thin concentric half circles of colour, with floating spots like the red spot on Jupiter, from which it no doubt gets its name.

Check out her website at

Lincoln Farabee displayed some wonderful blown glass vessels. Call it Dinner is a kind of installation. These two bowls, one mottled brown and the other white, are labelledDog and Cat in applied glass letters. Each contains water and a living goldfish.

Vertigo is a particularly strong vessel just on its own. Black and white lines swirl around the outside of the vessel. When you look inside, a swirl of intense red at the base of the bowl fades out to a duller red up the sides. Soft swirls in variations of colour saturation add to the optical experience of this piece.

Tasha Walen has many strong and original pieces in the show as well. I particularly enjoyed Bubble Garden. Three pale-orange, matte, kiln-glass carrots sit in individual clear blown glass bubbles with a little earth in the bottom. Copper wire sprouts out the top of each with little clear, shiny, green, glass leaves.

The matte-orange glass catches and holds the light evocatively. It makes me think of the way carrots seem to turn the sunlight into flavour.

Walen also plays with matte and glossy glass in two sculptural pieces on plinths. In Inspection of Red, she laminates red and clear glass to create a cone-like shape with two points and one flat side. The face is clear and glossy so you can see in, and the sides are matte. A concave circle in the face gives the viewer a vantage point to inspect the red.

Walen and Farabee share a common glass studio on Douglas Island across from Juneau. See more about their studio at

It’s unusual to mention it, but the food at the opening was whimsical and creative, too. Stefani Marnon of Chef Stef’s Custom Catering served up savoury “truffles” made of grapes wrapped in blue cheese studded with walnuts, as well as steamed artichoke leaves to dip and skim the tender tangy vegetable delicacy off with your teeth.

The Canvas is a unique gallery. It was founded to provide art studio day programming for people who have disabilities. This programming continues in the studio, as well as art education and showing opportunities for the general public. Find out more at

At the Canvas, program developer MK McNaughton encourages interested artists to approach her with ideas for shows. Since Canadian artists can only take less than $2,000 worth of artwork with them across the border at a time without going through a customs broker, it might be an opportunity for a group show from a collective of artists from Whitehorse to take their work to a wider audience.

She’s also keen to have artists, who can work in the United States, approach her with teaching ideas for The Canvas.

Beyond the Pane continues until May 31.

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