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MADE ON ISLAND

From Island to Island
The Glass Art of Russell Carson

By Amelia Smith

Russell Carson discovered the art of glass blowing when he was a teenager in a small town in Connecticut. His future wife introduced him to an eccentric artist who was just starting to get into glass blowing. Russell entered into a series of apprenticeships that eventually brought him to Martha’s Vineyard. Here, he met Davide Fuin, an Italian maestro who came to the Vineyard regularly and who eventually invited Russell to his studio on the most famous island in the glassblowing world, Murano. Murano lies about a mile north of Venice in the Vanetian Lagoon.

At one point, Russell almost abandoned the art. After a year of not blowing glass at all, he signed up for a class in Oregon with another Italian master, Pino Signoretto, whose specialty is hot glass sculpture. “This guy is like a magician,” Russell says. “Some of the greatest people that have ever made glass are still alive today.” He came to a realization: “There’s no way I’m ever going to achieve anything if I’m not blowing glass every day.” He called Mark Wiener at MV Glassworks and asked if he could work there.

Russell strives to emulate Davide Fuin’s traditional craft, rather than chasing originality like many of his art-school-graduate colleagues. Russell now travels to Venice to help Davide teach on Murano every summer. “To be able to sit at his bench and work at his furnace is really special for a lot of people,” he says. “I’m just trying my best to make the things that he makes. I fell like it’s important because American glassblowers don’t know the tradition, and there aren’t many young people working on Murano. Maybe one day I’ll try to adapt it to my own style, but not just now.”

Russell currently works in Allan Cottle’s workshop, where he’s assisted by a few glassblowers he’s met here over the years. He uses a limited palate of about six colors at a time, which he says inspires his creativity. “I try to think of it as not such a precious thing,” he says of his work. Even a complicated piece only takes him about half an hour to make, and most are formed in ten minutes or less. “I want everything to be affordable,” he says. “I want to make nice things that people want to use.”

Russell sells his work at the Chilmark Flea Market in season and through Morrice the Florist in Vineyard Haven, as well as on his website: russellcarsonglass.com