středa 15. října 2014

The Glass School in Železný Brod

"Biatlon", 2011, Barbora Frýdová
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Last week on a trip outside Prague I visited the Železný Brod, a small town in central Bohemia known for its glass tradition.I have been going to Železný Brod for years and have seen it go from a gray communist town to a much more livable place which it is today. The town has a long history of glass production dating back to the mid 19th century. Glassmaking was historically the backbone of the local industry in the area below the Krkonoše Mountains. Much of the local production used to be small glass figurines of people and animals. They can still be found in antique shops –often with a missing limb or sometimes in souvenir places. As younger Czechs tend to avoid filling their homes with miniature glass statues of acrobats and elephants the local glass makers have had to adapt to changing tastes.

"Medúza", 2012 Sara Kordová
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The reason for my visit was the glass school where I have been going in search of glass for a few years. The school known as  SUPŠS  (Střední uměleckoprůmyslová škola sklářská) teaches different glassmaking skills and disciplines to students from all over the world and is highly regarded .Given the focus of the school there is always a lot on display, the school which is an important part of the town often presents its works to the public.

A gallery window of Česká spořitelna in Melantrichova st featuring works by students during Desigblok 2014

Many members of the academic staff are also well known glass artists in their own right with shows in and outside the country. Most leading Czech glass artists have taught at the school at some point in their careers. They have also helped move the school in a more modern direction. The town in conjunction with the school hosts an annual event in September called Skleněné Městečko (a little glass town) which is a great opportunity to see all that the school and its alumni work have been working on .It is also an informal gathering of contemporary art glass collectors as well as people who want to swap old pieces glass . The town also has numerous independent glass workshops and industrial glass companies.

From last year’s September event
Foto by Kristina Hrabětová

Although I had always known about the school, it was only a few years ago that I became aware of it’s more contemporary work after I saw a few pieces in the gift shop of the Municipal house in Prague .After attending the annual end of year exhibit of students who were graduating I went back to the school to look at more. This all happened in the space of a few months and it was quite a  revelation to  me as I found that many of the students made works of that were just as good as what was being sold in exclusive by appointment only galleries in Prague. 

Bohemia Crystal –new edition
Skleničky, 2005 Tereza Hanušová
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This time thought I made no major artistic purchases but visited the school shop which sells only things made by students .The objects on sale cover all the glass making techniques and range from jewelry to small fragile figurines to bigger pieces. This time I saw they have also begun to include more elaborate objects which in some cases were students’ graduation projects.

A big bowl I turned upside down 

This small shop which has a slight air of a throwback communist era porcelain shop had a very helpful sales lady who catered to my every whim. Since all that is on sale is made by students, some products have evident imperfections or slight anomalies, a trait I personally find quite original. On the other hand there were items that look they could be nominated for a design award. Moreover the stock constantly changes depending on what the students have recently produced.
This little town is work exploring not only for its glass but also for the nature around it .
I liked a similar stopper in the shop
 Final project  2014 Štěpánka Fejfarová
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