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Renowned glass artist presents 'Art: Up Close & Personal' program

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Chattanooga glass artist and sculptor Thomas I. Spake will share his career path during the Arts Council of Williamson County’s free educational program, “Art: Up Close & Personal,” on Monday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. in the Williamson County Public Library.

“I find inspiration in the subtle yet mysterious beauty of our natural world,” Spake said reflecting on his work. “This beauty can be found in so many different places upon our planet, from the sandy ocean floor to mountainous peaks, from the spans of our bridges to urban landscapes.

“As an artist, I am a curious observer, a witness to what takes place in my environment. I take these observations and transform them into an object, something to hold and embrace. I find the process of making an object to be very powerful, and so the object that is created becomes very valuable to me as well as others.”

By using the heat, fire and the raw materials in the glass colors, the artist has learned to manipulate and create rich, subtle patterns that abstractly mimic the landscape. By layering colors on top of one another and cutting and grinding into them, he is able to create textures and patterns that are reminiscent of the landscape and surroundings.

The son of a Golden Gloves boxer and distance runner, Spake grew up in Newnan, Ga., a small town southwest of Atlanta. At an early age, he was involved in athletics, and especially basketball, heading for Centre College in Danville, Ky., to pursue a basketball career. At that time, he had no idea that his next step in life would be glassblowing.

Yet, he explained, “The art of glassblowing is a very physical and intense process, so the transition from basketball to glassblowing was seamless.”

Soon Spake was working closely with his professor, internationally acclaimed artist Stephen Rolfe Powell. After graduation, Spake was awarded the position of artist-in-residence in glass at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Smithville, Tenn. The opportunity to work with Curt Brock and learn from his established glass program opened Spake’s eyes to the possibilities of glass as a sculptural material. In later years, he returned as a workshop instructor in glass blowing on several occasions.

After two years at the Craft Center, Spake was offered the chance to open a hot shop, River Gallery Glass Studio, where he was manager, designer and artist for two years in the Bluff View Art District in Chattanooga. After three years, Spake left to establish Thomas Spake Studios, which focuses on glass art and sculpture.

Spake focuses his energy on works that infuse the earth, air and sea. These works range in scale from small ornaments and paperweights to large outdoor sculpture. A recent highlight for Spake was his work being chosen from a pool of over a thousand entries from 12 countries to install a sculpture at the first street steps in downtown Chattanooga.

Spake lives in Chattanooga with his wife, Kimerlen Moore, an artist and art educator.

This free lecture series is open to the public and includes light refreshments provided by Whole Foods. The main branch of the Williamson County Public Library is located at 1314 Columbia Avenue in Franklin. For information about the event or the Arts Council of Williamson County, please visit www.artscouncilwc.org or call (615) 428-3845.

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