During the 1950s, leading up to the American studio glass movement, artists began working with glass as a sculptural medium through warm techniques like casting or slumping. Glassblowing skills were used in factory settings in the United States; however, artists who wanted to use such techniques in their studios had to start from scratch when learning to use the material. In 1962, Harvey Littleton organized experimental glass workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art, which led to an exploration of glass as a medium for the individual artist. These workshops spurred technical investigation by American artists, craftspeople, and scientists. However, much of the expertise gained by American artists through the 1960s and 1970s was the result of artistic exchanges with Venetian glass maestros, such as Lino Tagliapietra and Pino Signoretto.
Such relationships led to residencies in Venetian factories, which meant an unprecedented availability of information from the previously close-walled world of Venetian glassmaking. It was through these experiences that the goblet—an important form in Venice—became a useful teaching tool. As a result, the goblet-making tradition was brought to the United States, and used in education as a form through which a myriad of complex techniques, such as the use of canes—long, thin rods of glass—to create various patterns and illustrative treatments, could be perfected.
A portion of the Museum of Arts and Design’s goblet collection is on view in the third-floor stairwell, and includes work by such well-known artists as Fred Birkhill, Dale Chihuly, Fritz Dreisbach, Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace, Beth Lipman, Marvin Lipofsky, and Richard Marquis. The breadth of examples shows how the form has been used by studio glass artists to showcase not only skill, but also humor.