Artist Feature: Reba Price
Reba blowing glass
How did you become involved in blowing glass?
Oddly, I’m really not quite sure how it all happened. I arrived at Tyler [ School of Art in Philadelphia ] with no clear idea of what I wanted my concentration to be; I’ve always been attracted to any process I could get my hands on. I did a little shopping around, and at one point I was pretty committed to focusing on wheel throwing in ceramics. Friends of mine, who were already in the glass program, suggested that I try glassblowing because of that interest – the two processes really aren’t that similar, but some of the same concepts run through both.
I kind of ended up kicking my own butt as an all-or-nothing character, and applied for permission to take the first two levels in the glass program in one semester – and all of that while continuing my trajectory in the ceramics program, and maintaining a full academic schedule. Regardless of all of that, I completely threw myself into the process, developed a small obsession, and y’all can guess what happened from there.
What about the process and material drew you to continue working in it? What's your favorite part of the glass blowing process?
I have had conversations with a number of other glassblowers about this; the process kind of forces you to become a better person. Generally, it is intrinsically community oriented, and one in which you must be able to communicate with a number of people in order to get the results you want. The clearer you can do that, and kinder you can be about it, the lovelier more successful the work experience. Usually, you’ll start out assisting a good amount, and developing the skill of anticipating need and attentiveness will run parallels in all other veins of your life.
Glassblowing will also brutally improve your ability to deal with loss, especially early on. These “failures” are immediately dissectible, and therefore immediately instructive. I adore this practical analysis and the conversations it prompts.
My parents are both scientists, so growing up I was in an overtly analytical household, which continually holds discussions devising all the ways around varying hypothetical scenarios. So, naturally, the technical side of the material and process became wildly appealing to me. As with anything, the more completely you can understand why things are happening, the more sense that is made, and the more purposefully you can engage with the material.
I had the opportunity to take a neon bending class at Urban Glass in Brooklyn with Mark Naylor, who has his doctorate in Glass Science (swoon), and the sheer volume of data he presented to us was astounding. That increase in knowledge immediately shifted the way I experience and approach glass.
Reba Price Teaching Glass Blowing at East Falls Glassworks
Having access to a glass studio can make it difficult for artists to work in the medium, how do you navigate this in order to make your work?
It is indeed quite challenging to find spaces to work, which makes me pine for the days when I was in school with unlimited access (they all told me that would happen). Immediately after graduation I was a TA for a class at my alma mater, which granted me a small amount of access, while simultaneously exposing me to an incredibly talented glassblower, teacher, and artist, David King. After that, I had a fellowship at Peters Valley School of Craft, which ran a few classes out of the roving Glass Routes truck.
After graduation, I rolled through several different experiences – all which granted me somewhat limited access to a shop and materials. Though, in October of 2016 I found a forever home. I walked into Philly’s community hot shop, East Falls Glassworks, and kept showing up until they started inviting me back. Since then, I’ve been teaching classes there. Usually these are first-timers who know little-to-nothing about the process, and want to walk out with a successful vessel, or the like. This format presents it’s own very special kind of challenge and has helped me develop a skill set that I hadn’t previously considered. I’ve also worked with students who are somewhat experienced, and want to improve their technical skills in successive sessions, and I have to say, it is truly fulfilling.
The studio at East Falls Glassworks has given me massive opportunity. When I work there I choose to get paid either monetarily or into a work-for-trade-time account (This helps me to budget a portion of my income that I put toward time in that studio). They are empowering to their employees, and have put together such a welcoming environment and internal community.
Opportunity also abounds for anyone interested in glass, experienced or not. A number of craft schools exist throughout the country, which grant numerous scholarships, both need and merit based – and the applications aren’t even torturous! I had an amazing experience at the aforementioned neon bending class due to a scholarship opportunity through them.
You're a member of This Many Boyfriends Club, can you touch on how having a supportive group has impacted your artistic practice?
The birth of This Many Boyfriends Club was catalyzed by the growing necessity to escape a toxic job where we all had worked and bonded. The CEO of this Philadelphia-based ceramic production company has multiple sexual assault and rape allegations against him. Amidst the onset of these, his and the company’s subsequent inaction taken, and the exploitative and male dominated work atmosphere he culminated, we all left.
This turbulence pulled us together, and we’ve been making and growing since. We recently landed in a small studio, and had our first show as a collective in February, are working toward another show in May, and are very excited to have been featured on Etsy for International Womyn’s Day (follow our Instagram and Facebook for updates on these and other happenings @thismanyboyfriendsclub).
Being surrounded by these remarkable womyn has been instrumental in my continual attempting to find access and to make. Finding the proper balance between working supplemental jobs and pushing my own studio practice is definitely a challenge for me, and so these cherished womyn that I can rely on to embrace me, and to critique me, have become indispensable.
As part of a community that is more empowered every day, we are consistently seeing an increase in work that comes from voices similar to ours. I can’t encourage you enough to research the businesses and artists you choose to support. (Like, really really good job choosing The Junkyard Co.)