Now a professional flameworker (glass artist), Kari Russell-Pool is one of the up-and-coming names around the world because of her work and is perhaps one of the biggest names in the United States in the field.Her glasswork, which is on display at Salem Community College and was explained in some depth during a slide presentation Saturday, involves an incorporation of her fears and fascinations. Her work often has flowers and birds adorning ivy or cradles, and is almost impossibly fragile.
During the presentation, she also revealed a bit of her own life and struggles in her progression as an artist.
Her husband, also a glass artist, torched figures of fruit on a bowl with names like "Envy" and "Bitter" after her work started gaining acceptance in museums and his did not.
"It's not always easy to be two people doing the same thing in the world," she said.
She also must balance herself between her life as an artist and a mother.
We all know how hard it is to balance work and family, she said, but it's even harder when your work is a part of you.
Russell-Pool was part of a weekend flameworkers event at the Salem Community College that attracted around 350 people from 26 states and Canada.
"I love the idea of Salem Community College having an event of international stature that becomes a resource for students," said Paul Stankard, the conference chair and alumnus of SCC. "The glass center is the most successful facility for flameworking glass in the world. I know that more than most because I've been around the world and experienced other facilities."
Russell-Pool was the featured glass artist. She offered a slide show of the progression of her work along with a demonstration in which her practiced hands crafted a bowl of flowers and looping ivy in front of an audience of over 100 people.
The International Flameworking Conference is in its third year, and includes displays, presentations, and demonstrations in its three day event.
SCC, which just began its two year program in glass art, will have its first graduating class this May. They have offered a scientific glass technology program to students for 44 years.
Gordon Smith, who attended SCC in 1977-78 for its scientific glass program, now lives in Arizona and works as a full time paperweight maker. He came back to New Jersey specifically for this weekend, he said.
"For me, the real impact is seeing what's available for younger artists," said Smith. "It's almost like re-educating yourself."