Cold Cold Art - Page 3

West Coast glassmaker Ethan Stern explores his 'original voice' with a keen, modern eye on the past
Cold Cold Art
'Red Span' from the 'Coastline' series.
Cold Cold Art
Cold Cold Art
Four pieces of hand-blown, wheel-carved glass from Stern's
archive: (L-R) 'Igeta,' 'Blunt Fork,' 'Black Cumulus,' and 'Cumulus.'
Cold Cold Art
Ethan Stern hard at work in his studio.

"They're organic in feeling," Kasten says. "There's a smooth, organic feeling, and his use of color in just the right proportion."

Kasten sees landscapes in Ethan's works, as well as suggestions of narrative, though he says his interpretation may not be shared by others. Ethan's piece 'Lunar Light' "changes throughout the day as the light changes," he says. "It's almost a lunar landscape."

In another of Ethan's pieces, part of the 'Crosscut' series, "you can see the flow of a river, or in the other color, the flow of lava," Kasten says.

Ethan, who loves gardening and bicycle riding, though he has little time for either these days, shifted to glass from ceramics in large part because ceramic work tends to be solitary—whereas glass, by necessity, is a team sport.

"You work in a team, and you have to really work with other people to help you achieve big things," he says. "Glass is unique in that way. You're not carving wood by yourself or throwing ceramics. You're working with a team of four to five people."

"That's a huge part of glass, the community."

High points in his career were assisting the legendary Lino Tagliapietra for three weeks in Portland. "Every morning just the two of us would have breakfast," he recalls.

Like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods to help poor mankind, Tagliapietra brought to American glass artists of the mid-century even greater secrets—how the glassmakers of Venice created their marvels.

 "Lino was the one person who created the foundation for the way we see glass now," Ethan says.

Ethan also treasures his time doing his hot work in the studio of master glass artist Benjamin Moore, who had apprenticed at Venini Glass in Murano. "He taught me a lot about glass and design," says Ethan, who worked at Benjamin Moore's Seattle Hot Shop from 2006 to 2017.

"The entire time at Ben Moore I was working with the same four to five people all those years," he says. "We all kind of grew together and discovered things together."

Another connection made through Studio Glass is Ethan's wife, Amanda, who also blows glass, does stained glass, and works in metal. They met at Pilchuck.

After almost two decades in the Northwest, Ethan and Amanda are making a fresh start in Los Angeles, where they relocated because she found her "dream job" there with the eclectic and eccentric design firm, the Haas Brothers.

Ethan is setting up his downtown cold-working studio, and assembling a team of artists to assist. He blows glass at the studio of a friend, glassmaker Joe Cariati, and teaches at Cal State Fullerton.

"L.A. is known for art," he says. "That's one reason it's been exciting to move here."

The city is also known for its design scene, and Ethan wants to be part of it, while still producing fine art.

"My goal is to do both," he says. "I want to make design objects—like vessels, maybe lighting, some pieces that go for a lower price point." He also hopes to collaborate with Amanda.

Besides doing his own art, Ethan often works with other artists on theirs. And not just glass artists. One non-glass artist he has worked with is Olivia Booth, a sculptor and installation artist who "wants glass to fit into her work concept. The aesthetics of glass is not as important as the concept," Ethan says.

"A lot of younger-generation artists are learning glass techniques and using glass, but it's only one element in their work. They come to glass without a traditional background," he says. "It's really interesting, the people who don't know so much [about glass]."

Ethan adds, "I almost think I know too much, in a way."

"It's a great thing," he says, magnanimously, of non-glass artists working with glass. "It's cracking it wide open. For real innovation to happen, it's going to happen there."


• For more of Ethan Stern's art, visit His work can be seen in person at Montague Gallery in San Francisco, online at

Photography of the artist: Adriene Biondo
Glass art photography: Russell Johnson, Rob Vinnedge, Daniel Fox, Fredrick Nilsen