“The work that I create highlights form, color, and absolute detail in blown and engraved glass.”
Jacob Vincent is a creative glass artist who holds a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Skidmore College and an MFA from within the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. He studied glassblowing at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts as well as the Studio of Corning Museum of Glass, where he was a scholarship recipient.
Jacob creates both functional and decorative pieces using ancient glass blowing techniques requiring precision, stamina, creativity, concentration, and a deft hand. He doesn’t use any molds and has an eye for gorgeous saturated colors.
Jacob does a lot of cold finishing, meaning working on the glass after it has cooled down and is no longer molten and malleable. Using tools like diamond and stone wheels, he can carve into the surface of the glass revealing new layers and adding texture. Cold finishing processes are more than grinding and also include polishing, any engravings and etchings, and more.
He serves as Glass Department Director and an instructor at the Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, America’s oldest nonprofit center for craft education. His work can be found in prestigious galleries and museums nationwide and has been featured in numerous craft publications.
Stoked: What do you love about your craft?
Jacob Vincent: When I get to the studio to start my day, I never know what will come of it. Every piece of glass that I pick up to work on could become something broken, or something beautiful.
Stoked:: What’s your favorite color to work with in glass?
Jacob Vincent: Northstar’s Peach. It’s such beautiful glass, in reflected light it is this very elegant peach color and in transmitted light it has an amazing bluish gold hue. I just adore it.
Stoked: Do you ever create pieces other than pipes?
Jacob Vincent: I started my career in glass primarily as a pipe maker, but I was always fascinated with goblets and vessel forms. Around 2006, I took a hiatus from pipemaking and started working at the furnace making all sorts of functional objects.
I spent a few years focusing on bowl making. I was making large bowls with layers of color on the surface, and then carving into them in the cold shop to build pattern and texture. That work actually is what informs my newest body of pipes.
I’ve been working on a series of flameworked forms with wheel-cut surfaces that have all of this texture and pattern and surface finish that you can’t get in hot glass. It’s been very exciting getting back to cold-working, and making what feel like really unique pipes.
Stoked: What is the largest piece you have ever made?
Jacob Vincent: In 2010, I was fully burnt out in my job. I had been working as Director of the glass program within the Worcester Center for Crafts and was just totally exhausted all the time. I desperately needed a vacation but it just wasn’t possible, so I built one.
At the furnace, I made about 120 inch-tall glass rings and a big blown root ball. I built a steel armature and quilted a canopy of palm fronds from cotton. Assembled and in the middle of a pile of about 600 pounds of sand, I had a 12 foot tall glass palm tree to sit under.
The studio I was working in sits very close to Route 290 in Massachusetts. When the traffic was heavy I could sit under it, close my eyes, and the traffic almost sounded like waves on the beach. Next best thing to the Caribbean. Sort of.
Stoked: Do things ever turn out totally not as planned?
Jacob Vincent: All the time!! Glassblowing is a lot like driving a car, it’s all about constant corrections. When things go perfectly, glassblowing is actually incredibly easy and very quick.Things never go perfectly. So, whenever we work we’re always shifting this or compressing that or stretching that other thing over there a little bit to account for some weirdness.
The more experience you have, the more this just becomes a natural part of the process. So usually when things aren’t as planned, you can coax them back to where they should be.
If something is especially janky, it’s often a good idea to scrap it and start over – it’s easy to keep playing with a piece of glass until suddenly it’s 4 am and it’s dead and you haven’t eaten and your wife is wondering why you never came home and you’re out of propane. You could have just made a new one and also eaten dinner!
But then sometimes things get really weird and the thing you messed up turns into something totally new and amazing, and can inform a whole new piece or process or body of work.
Accidents can pretty easily turn into an “aha moment” if you happen to see some promise in a thing you thought that you had fucked up.
Stoked: How did you get into glassblowing?
Jacob Vincent: A good buddy of mine was an apprentice at a local “hot” shop when we were in college. I would go down there to hang out sometimes and got to try it once, I made this horrendous paperweight that ended up full of burnt up newspaper and wrinkles. It was both a disaster and the most exciting thing I had ever done.
Once you feel that, you kinda don’t have any choice but to make it your life. My school didn’t have a glass program, so I set up an independent study for myself through the ceramics department (with my buddy as my “advisor”), and spent the better part of my senior year in a basement behind a torch.
In the middle of that year, I took a weeklong class with Emilio Santini, easily one of the greatest lampworkers alive. I had no idea what I was doing, but just seeing him finesse glass with such mastery was pivotal for me. That week watching Emilio has been a huge influence throughout my career.
Jacob Vincent has been working with glass for over 15 years, and loves it. His art is beautiful and ever changing, and his dedication to his craft is impressive to see.