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Guiding a group of glass collectors and scholars to Italy, Greece and Turkey recently presented an opportunity to see old traditions in new ways for Curtiss Brock, professor of glass at the Appalachian Center for Craft, a satellite campus of Tennessee Tech University.

One of his main goals on the 10-day excursion compared and contrasted traditional techniques used by these different countries with the contemporary techniques used in the United States.

“Italy — more specifically, the island of Murano — was the center for European glass in the 1600s, but the island today is facing a very hard economic situation that’s threatening to shut down all its glass studios,” Brock said.

“If that happens, many of the incredible skills and secrets those glass artists have kept alive for so long would be lost, so I really wanted to expose this group to the depth of the history of European glass and show them what an incredible cultural loss that would be,” he continued.

Brock said this trip, like other trips he’s taken to Europe in the past, also inspired his own creativity as an artist and has given him new and fresh ideas about teaching.

“Being able to talk to my students from a first-hand experience is what makes my classroom exciting,” he said. “Teaching them the history and helping them understand how things are always changing helps to prepare them for the experiences they will face as professionals.”

In fact, one former Craft Center student, James Mongrain, who now lives and works in Washington state and who is considered one of the nation’s premier glass blowers, accompanied Brock as a guide on the trip. It was sponsored by the Tacoma Glass Museum as a fund raiser for an Italian glass show now traveling throughout the country.

“Seattle and that region is considered the center for contemporary glass in this country — similar to how Italy was about 300 years ago — so having a former student working there reaffirms the powerful impact TTU and the Craft Center continue to have on this field,” Brock said.

The group, in addition to visiting a number of master craft artists who own small, independent studios, visited Italy’s Venini glass factory.

“It’s the premier glass factory in Italy and is now run by the great granddaughter of the original founder. It’s always taken a progressive approach to the glassware it produces, and that’s what’s made the company survive so long,” Brock said.

Another memorable destination for the group was visiting the only school for glassware in Turkey. “They borrowed their techniques from the Italians, but the Turkish glassware is exploding with its own brand of creativity,” he said.

Brock appreciates the distinction of being chosen as one of the group leaders. “I was glad to be an ambassador for TTU and the Craft Center in this opportunity for not only national but international relations,” he said.

For more information about Craft Center programs, visit its web site at