ST. PETERSBURG — It’s pretty amazing what can happen when people collaborate.
A shining example is Florida CraftArt’s exhibition, “Clearly Collaborative: A Master of Glass Meets Masters of Craft.”
It started with the collaboration between avid collector and Florida CraftArt board member David Ramsey and internationally recognized St. Petersburg-based glass artist Duncan McClellan.
More than a year in the making, the exhibition came about after Ramsey and McClellan saw the same story about craft artists in media other than glass who had worked with a master glass artist. McClellan had an abundance of blank blown-glass vessels that he offered for the project and encouraged Ramsey to curate.
Together with Florida CraftArt CEO Katie Deits, they selected nine award-winning artists for the exhibition. They are Joyce Curvin (mixed media), John Mascoll (wood), Charlie Parker (ceramics), Pam Fox (jewelry), Dominice Gilbert (metal), Sue Shapiro (ceramics), Lucrezia Bieler (paper), Nneka Jones (mixed media) and William Kidd (ceramics).
Also included in the exhibition is a collaborative piece between McClellan and the late metal sculptor Paul Eppling, commissioned by Ramsey 17 years ago.
The artists were given access to McClellan’s gallery and studio in the Warehouse Arts District. Since none of them had worked extensively with glass before, the idea was that McClellan would guide them, but he said that was minimal.
“These are not artists that needed any handholding,” he said.
That point is made clear by including the artists’ nonglass work in the exhibition. They are masters of their crafts, as the title implies, making this a standout show.
Ramsey’s passion for the exhibition is evident. He’s full of anecdotes about each artist and their processes. Ramsey regularly checked in on the artists and took videos of their progress.
Ramsey said that he and McClellan wanted to keep the artistic process as pure as possible, so they didn’t offer directional advice.
“Everybody came up with really different ways of approaching their work, “ Ramsey said.
St. Petersburg-based metal sculptor Dominice Gilbert said the project was a challenge because of the fragility of glass. She used a sandblasting technique on one piece and acid etching on another.
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But the real problem-solving came on the large scale piece, “Annulus.” The glass piece goes in last and Gilbert had to hope nothing had moved after welding. Luckily, it fit.
“I love her bravery,” McClellan said. “It’s the engineering mind, the problem-solving that an artist has to do. That is the real genius out of all of this.”
The artists’ achievements in glass are remarkable. Ramsey said wood artist John Mascoll was surprised by the colors of the vessel that were revealed after sandblasting. Its resemblance to his wood vessels is uncanny, and he engineered a wood lid with feet that sits over the opening.
Joyce Curvin makes whimsical papier-mache sculptures of animals. So with “Marz Roverz,” McClellan’s vessel became the body of a rocket topped with two adorable dogs. Curvin created a companion manual that is translated into several languages, including Vulcan.
Ramsey said he thinks the artists had good experiences and will continue to support each other.
The jury’s still out on whether there will be a second “Clearly Collaborative.” McClellan is for the idea, and Ramsey said that if they do another one it would be with a whole new lineup.
If you go
“Clearly Collaborative: A Master of Glass Meets Masters of Craft.” Remains on view through March 11. Artists lectures happen on Feb. 22 and March 7. Free. 501 Central Ave. 727-821-7391. floridacraftart.org.