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Inspired by the works of constructionist artists such as Kandinsky, Asheville-based glass artist Carl Powell crafts designs that draw the eye upward, above the mountains to the sky. “Solar Dream,” a piece Powell created for the Public Art Commission for the city of Anchorage, Alaska, features planetary objects and shooting, swirling comet-esqe shapes that dance on the glass. Despite his years in his field and many commissioned works, including sculptural glass pieces, Powell didn’t go to art school with stained glass art in mind.
I studied drawing and painting at Georgia State in Atlanta,” says Powell. “When I finished there I had no idea what I wanted to do. A friend had been working at a stained glass studio, and when he got ready to quit,” Powell says, he encouraged Powell to apply for the position.
Taking his friend’s place, Powell worked and learned at the shop for four years. After one more four-year stint as an apprentice at another glass studio, Powell was able to go out on his own.
“I applied for a national endowment for the arts fellowship and got one,” Powell says. “At the same time, I got a commission from someone at the Laguna Gloria Art Museum to do windows for their home.”
Those two opportunities afforded Powell the ability to create modern, abstract work that spoke to him.
“Through the grant I was able to do more contemporary, personal work,” he says. “About the same time, I applied and was inducted into a three-year traveling show to major museums called Americans in Glass.”
From the apprenticeship in a glass studio to an artist receiving regular commissions, Powell received one more measure of success – an invitation to teach.
“Dale Chihuly invited me to start teaching at the Pilchuck school near Seattle which is the largest school dedicated just to glass art in the world,” he says.
Powell taught grinding and polishing for stained glass. He also taught sculptural techniques as he had begun creating sculptural pieces after viewing the works of Czechoslovakian glass artists at a Toronto exhibit.
While he traveled and lived in several different cities, a couple of visits to Asheville convinced him to move back to the southern U.S.
“I grew up in Georgia and wanted to be closer to home, but I kept hearing about Asheville and was happening here culturally,” Powell says. “There’s so much going on here with music, galleries and restaurants.”
View more of Powell’s pieces online at www.carlglasspowell.com.
Carl Powell Glass, 111 Grovewood Rd, Asheville, NC 28804, 828/255-8003.