Blue Skies Glassworks
~Born: January 22, 1954 Winona, Minnesota
Education: Public schools in Pierz and Little Falls, Minnesota
State College in Bemidji and Winona, Minnesota
Employment History: 1975 –1987 Fire Fighter, Forester and Park Manager
for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
1987 –Present Self employed glass artist
In 1984 I bought my first kiln and started teaching myself the craft of
glass fusing. By 1987 I had decided to pursue art glass as my full time
vocation. During the last 30 years I have participated in numerous juried
arts festivals, exhibitions, workshops and panels related to the art glass
field. Many awards have recognized my unique approach to art glass.
Several private collectors and public arts groups have selected my work on a
commission basis. Projects include a 72 square foot recycled glass wall
I have been married to glass jewelry artist Jody Freij-Tonder since 1973.
We have lived and worked near Two Harbors, MN since 1996.
~~Recycling and ice are the unique aspects of my story.
For over twenty five years I have been working exclusively with recycled glass.
The spectacle of flat sheets of ice covering lakes and rivers, breaking up in the spring and forming incredibly rugged landscapes inspired me to mimic this natural phenomenon in glass. I experimented with different types of glass and found that quarter inch plate glass gave me the color and texture I was after in my kiln formed pieces. The subtle variations in the color of the plate glass paralleled the color shifts in ice formations.
After these discoveries I decided to define a fairly narrow parameter for my work. I would use only recycled glass and the consistent inspiration would be ice and water. Initially this narrow focus felt a bit restrictive but as I continued to work within my defined range I became aware of a complete freedom to go deep, rather than broad.
I have been involved in the back to the land and environmental movements since the first Earth Day and the early Mother Earth News publications. The opportunity to merge my thrifty nature, environmental awareness and artistic vision into my glass sculptures continues to be a great ride.
In my studio on Thomas Lake, near Two Harbors, Minnesota, I work with a variety of recycled glass, kilns, and a sandblaster to create one of a kind glass sculptures. Each individual piece of glass is hand-cut from flat sheets of reclaimed glass, carefully assembled, fired to over 1400 degrees F. and slowly cooled to room temperature in a process taking nearly three days. The resulting pieces are then carved and etched with a sandblaster giving a frosty surface. Within each form I use internal lines, altered surface texture, light reflection, refraction and diffusion, to create tension, stimulate curiosity, and engage the eye.
Completed works are inspired by my time as a forester and park manager, and years of observing the seasonal changes in Northern Minnesota. Scenes of transition and times of change are constant inspirations in my work. It is my intent to create a contemplative feeling that encourages examination, rather than demanding attention.
I have been a full time glassworker since 1987. My work is sold at selected galleries and Art Festivals throughout the United States. Several awards have recognized my innovative approach to art glass and examples of my work are included in private collections worldwide.