2011-03-31 / News

Local glassblowers feature work at Collaboration ’11

By Ken Shane


Jamestowners David and Jennifer Clancy are award-winning glassblowers who will be featured in the Jamestown Arts Center’s upcoming Collaboration ’11 show tomorrow. Their plant pieces, like most of their work, take a realistic approach. Jamestowners David and Jennifer Clancy are award-winning glassblowers who will be featured in the Jamestown Arts Center’s upcoming Collaboration ’11 show tomorrow. Their plant pieces, like most of their work, take a realistic approach. The Jamestown Arts Center will open Collaboration ‘11 tomorrow, a community art exhibit featuring 12-by-12-inch artworks created by people of all ages and abilities, and presented in a variety of mediums.

Running concurrently, there will be a special exhibit called Top Collaborators, which will feature prizewinners from past Collaboration shows. The Top Collaborators exhibit will be curated by Vanessa Faye Wurman. Among the artists participating in the exhibit are Jamestown glassblowers, David and Jennifer Clancy.

In 1995, while working as an apprentice glassblower in Providence, David found himself on North Road one day. He grew up in Portsmouth and was familiar with the area, but on that fateful day he noticed a cottage for sale that was right in front of the Jamestown Windmill. It was, in fact, the miller’s cottage, which had been built in 1787.

By the following year – after buying the cottage from the family of a couple who had lived there for many years – David moved in and began the job of renovating it. The project would take seven years to complete.

Fortunately, he met his future wife, Jennifer, in 1998. She was working for another Providence glassblower at the time. Together they were able to complete the arduous task of renovating the house, which included insulation, roofing and foundation work.

Once the facelift of the cottage was complete, the Clancys decided it was time to build their own workspace. In 2004, with the help of millwright Andy Shrake, they created a 600-square foot post-and-beam glassblowing studio on their property.

Next, the Clancys equipped their new studio with the necessary tools of their trade, including a furnace to hold the molten glass, a reheating chamber to allow them to work the glass, and an annealing oven to slowly cool the glass.

Since then the Clancys have been busy creating a line of functional tableware as well as a number of stunning decorative sculptural pieces. Among those pieces are a series of glass-blown fish.

“We started the fish series a couple of years ago,” David said. “It’s a common form, people making fish in glass, but I kind of wanted to take it another step further. I’m an avid collector of rusted parts, so I kind of wed those two together. A lot of fish are ornamental, made to sit on your shelf and look pretty. I wanted to tweak them a little bit.”

“One of the things we wanted to do with the fish was to make them as realistic as possible,” Jennifer said. “There are a lot of glass fish out there that have a cartoony appearance. We wanted to move beyond that and create something that genuinely looked like a fish.”

The couple also has their own take on plant life, and once again their creations take a realistic approach.

“We’ve both been drawn to nature as an inspiration,” said Jennifer. “Over the years we’ve gotten more and more involved with gardening. Once we started going for that realism with the fish, that turned into wanting to capture the essence of plant life.”

In 2008, the Clancys asked the Jamestown Zoning Board of Review for permission to sell the work on their property. The vote was 3-2 in their favor, but approval required a 4-1 vote. The decision of the Zoning Board was appealed to Superior Court, where it is still awaiting a decision.

In the interim, the Jamestown Historical Society has come out in opposition to the Clancy’s request, fearing that it would set a bad precedent. The Clancys point to the fact that retail sales are already being conducted in their area.

For now, the Clancys sell their creations at craft shows and trade fairs. They recently attended the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City, where they received a Top Pick award from the American Society of Interior Designers. There are also custom creations available on order.

The Clancys are proud to be part of the Jamestown arts community, and they bring their work to the Conanicut Island Art Association summer and Christmas craft fairs each year. Their work can also be seen at the Casey Farm farmer’s market in the summer.

“These trade shows that we’re doing in New York, trying to get our sculptural work out there and recognized, are important to us, and important for our careers,” Jennifer said. “We also feel a strong connection with our community and want to be involved. We take our home very seriously, and it’s important for us to be a part of that.”

The opening reception for Collaboration ‘11 will take place at the Jamestown Arts Center on Friday, April 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will run through April 24. Gallery hours are noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Jamestown Arts Center is located at 18 Valley St.

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