Monday, November 5, 2007

Week #9

This posting has been past due. We are still patiently waiting for our internet connection. This being the case it is very difficult for my wife and I to update our blogs on a regular basis. Thank you for continuing to follow our activities.

In the last few weeks we have had a few events to note. On the weekend of October 19 we went with the school for a trip to Vienna, Austria. The following weekend was a school holiday. This was good for me being that my birthday was that Friday. This last weekend, which would be the first one in November, was spent at home with my family.

Trip to Vienna
Our trip to Vienna started out on Friday, the 19th of October. My family and I left the town square at about 7 AM on a bus with students and teachers from the glass schools in Kamenicky Senov and Novy Bor.

After traveling for a couple of hours we made a stop for relief. I mention this because I bought a wonderful DVD for my son to watch during the drive. For those of you who do not know we have a portable DVD player for these type of occasions. The DVD was a Czech claymation program of the characters Pat and Mat (Pat a Mat). There is no talking, just action so it is delightful even if you have no knowledge of the Czech language.

Our first scheduled stop of interest was in Trebic. We stopped here to visit a very beautiful basilica of Saint Prokopa. It was an interesting stop. However, I and my wife did not get a chance to see much of the interior. Our son is intimidated by the dark and overwhelming interiors of some of the cathedrals. After this we made a brief stop in Brno to visit Moravske Gallerie to see works primarily from Czech and Slovak artists that emigrated out of the Czech Republic during the communist period.

Finally we arrived at our hostel in Mikulov, just north of the Austrian boarder, still in the Czech Republic. We used this hostel as a base. Saturday and Sunday we would travel about an hour to Vienna and back in the evenings.

The first day we started by visiting the J. & L. Lobmeyer Firm. This is a very important glass company that has a close connection to Kamenicky Senov. Lobmeyer has worked with artists, primarily in Northern Bohemia for the last 100 years. We were very honored to have a guided tour of the gallery and showroom by Petr Rath, one of the decendents of the Lobmeyer family, and his son. Petr Rath has also continued his family tradition of working with artists in Kamenicky Senov. He started his own private venture and opened a small glass cutting studio in Kamenicky Senov which he will be handing over to different management this year.

After this visit Petr Rath took us for a small tour of the center of Vienna. It was great to have a native, especially someone with such an appreciation for art and design, to walk us through the area. He provided very a informed narrative of the area, buildings, architecture, people and personality of Vienna.

Later we visited the Albertina Museum. We were able to view some great works of the masters from the earlier part of the 20th century. It was very inspiring.

Then we returned to our hostel for the evening. After searching for some time we finally found a place to have dinner. However we were left with smazeny syr (fried cheese) and some salad.

On Sunday, we went back to Vienna. We visited a few more museums. The first museum we visited was the Museum of Applied Arts (Museum fur angewandte Kunst - MAK). Here we saw the works of the Wiener Werkstatte. This exhibit had work from the famous designers of the period such as Josef Hoffmann.

The second museum we went to was The Belvedere Museum. My wife and I had the most interest in seeing works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. It was great at this museum because there is a large open room with frescos and decorated in the Boroque style but with large velvet covered balls. This was the best part for my son, Thomas. He had a wonderful time rolling, bouncing and climbing on these balls.

Afterwards, we the group went to visit another museum. Instead of going we decided to check out a local famous restaurant/hotel, Sacher. They are famous for the “Sacher Tort”. This is a kind of chocolate cake. We got the cake and some coffee. Unfortunately, I have to say that the legend is more of a myth. The cake was very dry, not very tasteful and the coffee was sub-par. BUT now we can say that we have been to and experienced the famous Sacher Restaurant and “Sacher Tort”.

We then took a stroll around the city. We went back to the museum to meet the group and for our colleague to view some exhibits. We found a street vendor who was selling flaffels. It was nice to have something a bit different and something like we can find at home.

Then we took off for our return home. On our way out of the city we visited and area where the building were designed by the painter, Hundertwasser. It was a very surreal street. If there were a street to live on this would be it. It was very lively, but of course a little bit commercial. Finally we left the city.

The next week has not been too eventful. I went to visit a factory that produces some tools for the glass cutting industry. Mainly, I have been just trying to focus on some research and making some new sculpture.

I did have my birthday, which was nice because it straddled two days. On Thursday, we had a couple of friend over for dinner and cake. The next day, we went for some dinner at Penzion u Tumu. This is a nice place because the food is very good and has a designated “no smoking” area.

Now I am preparing for a visit from my Fulbright colleagues and staff members from the Fulbright Commission in the Czech Republic. They will be coming an open house at the school in Kamenicky Senov. The plan is to visit some glass museums, glass factories and the school.

There will be some photos posted later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fifth Week

The last few weeks have been fairly eventful for us. Unfortunately we have not had a reliable internet connection, so I have been unable to update the blog until now.

I have been seeing some guys blowing glass out my studio window since I first got here. I finally found the time to take a walk and visit the studio. It is a production shop owned by an Arab fellow but with Czech blowers. They were very friendly and invited me to come in to watch the production and even allowed me to photo and record video of them working.

One of our close friends and a previous Fulbright Grantee from the states came to visit us. He is glass artist that is cooperating with Czech glass makers on a regular basis. During his stay with us we visited a local factory, Jilek Glass Factory. We met the creative director, Petr Larva. Later that evening we had the rare opportunity to meet Peter Rath. He is a very important figure in glass making in this area of the Czech Republic as well as in Vienna. He is part of the Lobmeyer family, which has had a significant investment in the development of the glass cutting industry in Kamenicky Senov.

The next weekend we went to Svetla nad Sazavou to visit a long time friend of ours who was having an opening celebration for his newly renovated factory. This factory makes glass making equipment and specializes in glass cutting equipment as well as having their own line of cut utilitarian glass and small cut sculptures. By my opinion they are one of the best manufacturers of cutting tools in the world.

After this event we continued on to our friend’s, the director of the school we are at, summer house not far from Svetla nad Sazavou. We made a stop at a book fare to visit a publisher friend of the director who was christening a new book. Here we found a great children’s book in Czech and English by Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, and illustrated by Jiri Sopko, a contemporary painter and head of the painting department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Sopko has an exhibition up right now in Prague. You can read about him at these addresses: and On our way, we also past through the small village of Lipnice. This is where the Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek lived. He is most famous for his book Good Soldier Švejk. You can read about Hašek and his book at this address:

We finally arrived and settled in. The next morning, on Saturday, we went mushroom hunting. We collected three different types of mushrooms filling two baskets. After cleaning them, my wife incorporated them in some wonderful pasta. The next morning our friend got up and made some mushrooms, “Czech Style”, according to him. After working in the yard for a few hours we headed out. On our way home we visited the city of Kutna Hora and Sedlec, part of Kutna Hora. Here we visited the St. Barbara Cathedral. They are currently making renovations of the masonary and stained glass. One of the instructors at the school has a father that is one of the professionals responsible for re-leading and restoring the stained glass in the cathedral. After this we visited Kutna Hora-Sedlec, Kostnice. This is a cathedral and ossuary that had something like 40,000 skeletons stored in and around it. In the late 1800’s and artist was directed to sculpt the interior of the ossuary with these bones. You should read more and view the images on the website. See it here at this address:

We made it home after a long and eventful day of sightseeing. The week has started of great. I have been working with the instructors of the school.

It seems that one of the local papers wrote an article about my stay at this school. You can see the article, in Czech, at this address: Then today we had a call from the Czech television station Prima who had read the article and wanted to do an interview. So this afternoon the Director of the school, Frantisek Janak, who was translating for me, and I had a very successful interview with Prima. It will be aired tomorrow in the evening between 5:30 and 6:00 PM.

Note: You will notice that I was able to include some pronunciation marks to the Czech names. I did this by cutting and pasting from the internet. Sorry I could not do it for all but I am working on it.

Fifth Week - Photos

1. My family and I with our mushroom harvest.
2. St. Barbara’s Cathedral
3. Having a drink with some friends
4. Glassblower blowing into a mold

Monday, September 24, 2007

Third Week

This last week, my family and I went to Prague for the Fulbright Orientation. It was quite an eventful and exciting time. We were introduced to many things regarding the culture, history and language of the Czech Republic. The Fulbright Staff is incredible. They have been and continue to be very supportive and attentive to our needs and concerns. The organization was very generous as well, by situating us in a great location and very accommodating hotel.

The experience started with meeting the other Fulbrighters. It was inspiring to meet these professionals in varying disciplines. Each day we had some lectures that were mostly given by previous Fulbright Grantees. Again it was great to see how this opportunity can continue to enrich the careers of these individuals and how they continue to contribute to their fields.

The group also had the chance to experience some cultural events. The first was the Czech opera, The Kiss by Bedrich Smetana (you can find information at this website: This was at the National Theatre in Prague. As a side note, thanks to the Fulbright Staff for providing us with a bay sitter, this was the first date that my wife and I have been on in over two years. The next event was a reception for the current Fulbright Grantees at the home of the United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Richard Graber. The image here is of some of the grantees at this event.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Second Week - Sunday

Today has been a beautiful day. While most of our time so far has been rainy and a bit cold we were blessed with a beautiful and warm weekend. We are preparing for our trip to Prague tomorrow and needed a little family break. I and my family decided to go for a nice outing. We took a great walk today around the town of Kamenicky Senov, where we are living. The first part of our stroll started out with going to a basalt outcropping. This walk was almost 2 kilometers but went by very quickly. As you can see from the photos the formation is very interesting and powerful.

After we spent some time there, climbing around and also checking out the interesting mushrooms that were growing there, we started to look for some lunch. There are only about three resturaunts/pubs here. Mostly they are smoke filled and it is also difficult because my wife and son are vegetarian, so the menu choices are small. We have found ourselves at a nice place called Resturaunce u Tumu. It costs a little more, but the staff and food are excellent. I say a little more but we are usually eating a big meal, with a few beers and some dessert, for my son, for about $10-15 US Dollars (pretty good I think).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Second Week Photos

Microwave furnace with instructor
First cut glass example
Student engraving glass
Student cutting glass

Second Week

Greetings! This week I have been observing classes and working with some instructors. I have been focusing my research on glass cutting but also on engraving. This is the first week, however that I have been able to attend an engraving class.

The cutting class that I am most interested in is the first year class. The consecutive years seem to be working more independently with very close guidance from the instructor.

The first year students are starting at age 14 or 15. They begin with some basic cutting focused on one wheel. From this point they practice making marks on plate glass. These first cuts are arbitrary. They are left with the freedom to experiment from the beginning. As the class progresses, it becomes a little more structured. In addition to practical workshop experience, they are also lectured about cutting theory and design.

At this point I should make a note about the structure and course of study. The classes are divided into four groups, each studying for four years. The courses of study are; glass painting, glass cutting, glass engraving and lighting design. Every student is required to take drawing (from the figure), modeling (mainly from the figure or figurative elements) and science/chemistry of glass. In addition, students take theory of their discipline and have the option to take some metal working classes.

While some schools in the states require a minimal amount of drawing, it is pressed on these students for all four years. Another difference is about the science/chemistry classes. I am aware of a few schools teaching this but most are not or they focus on ceramic chemistry, which is related but still different. Also, keep in mind of the age range of these students. This information is being obtained at a young age compared to the states.

Next I had the opportunity to work with the science/chemistry instructor in repairing the microwave furnace. I have some technical background working with glass equipment but this is a new design for me. The microwave furnace is a Czech invention. The school at Kamenicky Senov has been fortunate to have one of the first there for their students to use for quite a few years.

On Wednesday I joined the head of the school, Frantisek Janak, for the opening of a Moser Crystal exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague. It was very exciting work and very inspiring. One thing that is most exciting is the fact that I have been fortunate to meet a few of the designers recently and in the past. This offers a little more of a personal connection to the work. You can see what they are doing at:

To end the week I took some time to attend a figure drawing class in the evening. It is great to be back working with the figure directly. It has been too long to have not drawn from the figure. For an artist of any discipline it is essential.

The next week, my family and I will be attending an orientation for Fulbright in Prague. We are very excited and looking forward to meeting other Fulbright Fellows and Scholars. In addition, it will be good to meet the Fulbright staff who have been so tremendously helpful in making this experience happen.

Friday, September 7, 2007

First Week - Photos


1. Frantisek Janak (Director of School), Rene Roubicek, Josef Kris (Glass cutting instructor) please forgive the spelling, I am unable to add the correct Czech pronunciation symbols to the letters
2. Frantisek Janak & Chloe (my wife)
3. Frantisek Janak & Thomas (my son)

***Double click on image to see it bigger

Thursday, September 6, 2007

First Week - September 2-8, 2007

We arrived safe and sound. The flight over was pretty uneventful until we connected in Frankfurt, Germany. This is a very confusing and not very helpful airport. However, we made to our next flight on Czech airlines which was a very quick flight to Prague.

Our long time friend and principal of the school in Kamenicky Senov, Frantisek Janak picked us up from the airport and took us on a quick tour of Prague. My wife had never been here before so it made for a good introduction. Then we headed for Kamenicky Senov.

We made it to our flat, which is just a few meters from the school. It is owned by the school, so they were able to offer it to us at an incredible rate, by American standards. It is a very beautiful area. We have a great view of some close mountains and are located not very far from Novy bor and Ceske Lipa. Both are larger towns with good resources.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Rene Roubicek, a very important Czech glass artist. We also visited his studio.

My family and I joined the instructors for a dinner and a game of bowling.

On thursday we visited the Czecg Glass Exhibition at the Fine Art Museum in Prague.

The classes I was able to attend this week were very informative. They covered basic explanations about tools, equipment and safety. One thing that is very different from the cold working studios in the US is the atmosphere. The studio is very open and has windows running the entire length of both sides. In addition the first year student brought plants in from the garden, which then line the sill of the windows. It makes the environment much more welcoming and pleasant.

After some basic explanations about the tools and how to use them, the students were left to practice. There is no cutting format for the first class. The students are allowed the time and freedom to experiment with the first wheel that is introduced.

I should also make mention that this is a Secondary School. These students range in age from 14-19. However, they are receiving information that is close to the equivelant that American students would receive at the university.

1. Front of school
2. Our apartment building, the school is the blue building behind

***Double click on image to see it bigger