FAITH DAVIS FERRIS - FORMAL TRAINING
I am fortunate to be one of the rare second generation apprenticed glassworkers of these times. I can succinctly say that I am trained to work with Moretti, Bullseye, Pyrex, NS, GA glass along with various torches and that I know the physical properties of working and annealing glass. Yet those are only facts. The truth of a generational apprenticeship consists of far more.........
My father, David Davis, is a masterful glassblower of over 50 years experience in both scientific and artistic glass work. So as you may imagine the knowledge base and skills I have the opportunity to learn via my apprenticeship with him are indeed diversified and vast.
It's an exceptional situation I find myself in for a variety of reasons. There certainly was a point in history and time when the sharing of such glassblowing/glassworking skills would only have been shared with a son. There have been, more recently, times when it was considered 'unusual' for a woman to make a living in a somewhat industrial setting of fire, kilns, and tanks as tall as she herself. And while I still find myself the recipient of the occasional opinion that it's not the ideal career choice, I am pleased the world has broadened it outlook.
Thru my apprenticeship I have achieved (and continue to achieve) a conceptual understanding of the physics and properties of the wide array of glasses. Simultaneously, I have learned by his careful teaching and example the thousands of subtle issues of working glass ~ and they are legion! And each set of skills varies depending upon the glass type, the project at hand and the desired outcome. Yet it is mesmerizing, this art, this skill of controlling glass. Solid to liquid to solid again. You learn your hands must be your eyes and split micro-seconds of heat mean success or failure. Hundreds of hours of practice, over and over again and again...only if you love it, only if the glass speaks to you are you driven to begin again where last you struggled. Glass is not an easy master - yet is so rewarding, Patience is the key.
As I stand behind the various torches, hour upon hour, year after year, he teaches I learn. I practice, I fail, he teaches patiently again. I succeed, I learn. I learn the skill, the art, the dance of working glass. Straight rods of color and clear curve and move in my hands to become what I desire them to be... Yet I know he is right each time he tells me that working glass is an endless horizon, with no limits aside from vision and passion for your work. I see the glass thru his eyes, his EXACTING standards, his years of coaxing this magically maddening material into submission. Thus part of a second generation apprenticeship is something that defies a lettered degree, and is larger than the sum total of individual educational parts.
I am often struck as we work side by side what an honor it is to be part of a skill and an art so ancient and time worn. There is in fact, for me, a sense of awe knowing that I am part of a tradition as old as time - one generation passing the acquired skills of a lifetime on to the next. Ironically, each of us holding the information like a vessel of glass till the next generation is ready to learn the passion and the skills of working glass. So it has gone, so it will always, hopefully be. In this age of high tech which allows me to share this world with you I hope there will continue to be a passion for the ancient arts and skills and magic that surround this art of working glass.
Lampworked Goblet by David A. Davis
(inset photo of Davis)