Ball State Graduate School Blog

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Meet James, whose glass work took him from coast to coast!

During graduate school, most students find themselves presented with a great opportunity (or two) to present their research or refine their craft. Today’s featured graduate student, James Labold, found himself presented with not one, not two, but three different opportunities to develop his glass skills and to travel across the country this summer.

Glass Graduate School

James is from Newtown, Pennsylvania, and he earned his undergraduate degree from Tyler School of Art. He is now in his final year at Ball State to earn his MFA in Glass. He started the summer as a teaching assistant at Goggleworks Glass in Reading, Pennsylvania, then traveled to Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, and finished the summer as an artist in residence at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. Here’s what he had to share with us:


Photo credit: James Labold

On his time at Goggleworks Glass:
“I was a teaching assistant to Eoin Breadon at a two week intensive workshop in hot glass sculpting. Eoin teaches glass at University Wisconsin River Falls, but we first met about ten years ago at Tyler School of Art while he was a graduate student and I was an undergrad. This was the first time Goggleworks had run intensive workshops with students in the studio from 9-5 every day for two weeks. It was a small group of students and we did hands-on work all day long. We demonstrated various techniques in the morning and helped the students make their own work each afternoon. The intensive environment forges bonds with students and teachers in a sort of rapid fire way– even though we only spent two weeks together, we spent every hour together!”

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Photo credit: James Labold

On being an artist assistant at Pilchuck: 

Pilchuck Glass School was founded in the 1970s. Since then, Pilchuck has been running workshops in glassblowing, casting, stained glass, engraving, even printing with glass plates… In other words just about everything glass! Students come from all over the world to Pilchuck, so it is always a very diverse group. During my time there, I was an artist assistant to one of their artists-in-residence. In each session, Pilchuck hosts artists who do not work with glass, pairing them with an assistant who is well versed in glass technique. The job was part assistant, part educator, part tour guide and translator, and part collaborator.

The artist I assisted, Tivon Rice, works with a lot of new technology, like 3D printing and micro controllers–which couldn’t be more different from my own work! I’m working with lost wax casting, a process that dates back to the Bronze Age, and he is printing sculptures designed in CAD programs with a corn based plastic. We ended up doing a lot of experimentation.

As part of working with Tivon, I was able to work with studio coordinators, gaffers (they’re the “master glassblowers” of each session), staff, and other faculty. I was able to make connections to the greater national and international glass community and as part of the experience, I had the chance to present my work to the entire school in a short artist lecture. I met other artists in every stage of their career. I was able to forge great connections and create great memories.”

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Photo credit: James Labold

On being an artist in residency at Salem State University:

“I was selected alongside three other artists, Miles van Rensselaer, Danny White, and Joseph Ivacic, to spend the month of July in the glass studio at Salem State. We had full access to the hot shop and worked together on our individual projects. This was a challenge because we all had very different styles of working and different personalities, but we were all there to get work done and learned how to work together.

This was my first time having an extended artist residency and it was definitely a learning experience. I wasn’t exactly sure what the facilities would be like, and I’m probably a little bit spoiled with the Glick Center at Ball State. It took some late nights and creative problem solving to figure out how to complete the work that I had planned, but in the end, I made a ton of new work and had some successful experiments.

Every Monday we had public demonstrations and each week featured a different artist. I ended up being interviewed by the local paper and we had a fairly large turnout for my demonstration. It was great to get the chance to showcase my work and skills in front of a group of people who I’d never met before.”

On how Ball State has transformed his life: 

“I have had the chance to work with techniques here that I don’t think I would have otherwise been exposed to. It’s given me the chance to focus exclusively on making artwork. Though I never stopped making art after undergrad, I always had to balance a having a job with my art making. Ball State has given me time to only think about art, make art, and talk about art, and that is about all I could ever ask for!”

His advice for incoming students: 

“Prepare to be challenged, be willing to grow, expect things to be difficult for a while, but remember that’s why you are here! Graduate school is certainly challenging at times. I think all graduate students have had moments of second guessing ourselves at the beginning, but remember the faculty are here to help you along your path, and the other grads are too. Stay focused and stay open minded!”

Thanks so much for sharing with us, James!

If you’d like to learn more about Ball State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts, visit the department’s website or contact graduate program assistant Nicole Cardassilaris. And, if you’d like to see more of James’ work, visit his website