Shannon Brunskill Talks about Her Work and Being a “Glassie”

Posted November 21, 2012 in Blog

View of “CraftTexas 2012.” From left to right: Miguel Abugattas’ “Untitled,” Tybre Newcomer’s “Tool of the Latter 20th Century: 5 Gallon Bucket,” Shannon Brunskill’s “The Sandwich Generation,” and “Disintegration” by Shannon Brunskill. Photo by Eric Hester.

Glass artist, Shannon Brunskill, talks about how she found glass, being part of a larger artist community, and the inspirations behind her pieces featured in CraftTexas 2012, currently on view at HCCC through December 30, 2012.

My work is a series of responses to moments I have experienced in life.  These moments imprint in my mind and resonate with me for weeks, months or years until I respond to them physically. It typically begins with a realization of some situation I find myself in, then I begin examining the situation and exhaust all possible meanings (there is a lot of thinking going on). The actual making comes after I have deeply considered what I want the piece to say and how I want to communicate my experience to a broader audience. Although the mental process of creating varies per piece, sometimes it may take a year to completely flesh out the idea before I begin to construct the physical piece of work. The work in CraftTexas 2012 is no exception to this.

The first meal I cooked for my husband resulted in us ordering pizza rather than eating the meal. This prompted me to take many cooking classes and learn to cook really well during my twenties.  After my first semester in the MFA program (in my early thirties), I was amazed at the amount of studio time I needed to put in, and consequently, much to the disappointment of both my husband and myself, our meals that I had previously prepared with love became a series of stops at the drive-through.  Disintegration started as a comment on my behavior, but the more I thought about it, the more it became about the decline in our time of domestic activities.  In the construction process, I wanted it to be extremely fragile, as I believe domestic situations are, and to continue to erode just by its own existence.

Shannon Brunskill’s “Disintegration.” Photo by Shannon Brunskill.

One day I was listening to a discussion about life expectancy that was aired on NPR.  The expert was saying that because our life expectancy was increasing so much, they were coining my generation the “Sandwich Generation.”  The name was given because we are expected to take care of our children, in addition to our parents, for a much longer period of time than history has ever seen.  In considering this, it seemed odd to me that they could give a name to an entire generation, in a way defining us.  This seemed impossible to do, especially since I was struggling at the time to define myself.  Years later, I decided to make Sandwich Generation about that radio show.  I am the sandwich; glass is used to be ethereal and somewhat indefinable.  The cold and hard cast-iron skillets that flank the glass are a metaphor for both the cruelty that takes place in generalizations and the difficulty associated with domestic and familial relationships.

Shannon Brunskill’s “The Sandwich Generation.” Photo by Shannon Brunskill.

I was raised outside Seattle, WA.  I began working at Southwest Airlines about two weeks after graduating high school and began moving around the country taking different jobs within the company. Ultimately, I met my husband, who also worked for Southwest.  In 1998, he was promoted to the Corporate Offices in Dallas, TX, and asked me to move to Dallas with him.  After a trip back to Seattle, where I visited the “New” Tacoma Museum of Glass, I found a local glass program at a university and enrolled.  The irony of the situation is that Seattle is the Glass Artists Capitol of the U.S., and I found glass after I had left.  The great thing is that, among glass artists, there is a tremendous sense of community worldwide, so even when I am not in Seattle, I am in constant contact with other “glassies.”  Many of us go to the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA, during the summers (it’s like glass camp for adults). Throughout the years, I have met many people there that have become dear friends.  Being a part of the larger glass community is such a wonderful experience—with them, I share ideas, get critical feedback on my work and am constantly learning new things.  It is really like an extended family, and one that I feel very fortunate to be a part of.

Within Texas, my studio practice is much more solitary.  There aren’t a lot of glass artists in Dallas, and we are very spread out, so our visits are pretty infrequent, and most of the time I work alone in my studio (unless you consider Enya, Linkin Park or Eminem blasting on the radio company).  Last year, while looking for a new studio space, I was fortunate enough to find an affordable space where there is an upholsterer, a copper worker, a woodworker and a cabinet maker in the same building.  Whenever I get a little stir crazy in my studio, I pop in on them to see what they have going on.  It is really interesting to see how the process is, in some ways, very similar from one medium to another. A couple of them even learned how to make some glass coasters.

Shannon Brunskill inside her kiln.