Artist's Alchemistic Glass Works Are Inspired by Botany (Video)

CC BY-SA 2.0. Paperweight by Paul Stankard, 1997, image by Ted (bobosh_t) via Flickr

There is no doubt that nature is a great teacher, and for many, it provides a primal salvation. For American glass artist Paul Stankard, nature's forms and patterns offer a mystical universe of inspiration, where flowers, seeds, roots and insects are translated into glass, becoming messengers of an unfathomable beauty.

His amazingly realistic works spring from his deep awe for nature, resulting in glass pieces that look like there are real flowers embedded inside. His precise glassblowing technique has a decidedly spiritual bent, as he explains:

I am interested in integrating mysticism with botanical realism giving the glass organic credibility. Through the work, I reference the continuum of nature, by portraying and exploring the mysteries of seeds, fertility and decay.

Stankard, who is considered the father of modern glass paperweights and a master of his art for more than 50 years, began his remarkable career after years of struggle in school with undiagnosed dyslexia. These early, discouraging pressures resulted in him wanting to find creative work, so after obtaining a degree in scientific glassblowing, he then worked for ten years in industrial glassblowing, making scientific instruments for laboratories.

His artistic break came when he began to sell glassworks that he created in his garage in 1969, to financially support his growing family. His botanically correct works -- painstakingly made, influenced by his industrial training and unique for that time -- caught the eye of a well-known art dealer, who sponsored his transition to full-time art-making.

Like an alchemist of glass, Stankard "interprets" blossoms with a spiritual and creative vision that has been influenced by American poet Walt Whitman, who was also a self-taught carpenter. In the video above, in reference to how these glass orbs are phenomenologically activated, he recites a lovely line from his own poem, written in his book “No Green Berries or Leaves”:

Receive this glass
it holds my memories
crafted blossoms
in stillness
to be pollinated
by your sight
anticipating your touch
through time.

It is remarkable that as an individual who overcame all the odds in a quest for personal creative expression, Stankard's story points to the universal human spirit that resides in all of us, waiting to be transmuted in the fires of divine insight. More over at Paul Stankard's website.