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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, October 11, 2002

Great glass gourds Great glass gourds (October 11, 2002)

Great Glass Pumpkin Patch returns to Palo Alto Arts Center

by Priya Padmanabhan

It's October, time for the big and small orange gourds to make their appearance everywhere. But imagine having pumpkins of myriad shapes, colors, sizes and types that last for a lifetime. If that sounds like a good idea, then you could check out the 7th Great Glass Pumpkin Patch starting Oct. 12 at the Palo Alto Art Center.

About 4,000 glass pumpkins will be on display and sale this year at the much-awaited fall event. Organized by the Palo Alto Art Center and the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI), the sale will benefit the children's art education programs at the art center and will also go toward the expansion of BAGI's new facility in San Jose.

Every year the glass pumpkin patch has a new twist. Last year, it featured a pyramid, but organizers have not yet revealed the theme this time around.

The event has been attracting many glass collectors, some of them regulars, since its debut in October 1996. Linda Goldstein, an avid collector who's on the board of the Glass Arts Alliance of Northern California (GLANC), has a penchant for collecting unusual-looking pumpkins.

"For people who want to have a glass collection, buying glass pumpkins is a great start. The creations are absolutely beautiful and the glass patch is an awesome sight," she said.

The glass gourds are creations of 30 glass artists belonging to the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI). They include professional artists, hobbyists, art students and volunteers. One of the youngest artists in the event is a senior at Palo Alto High School.

A pumpkin-blowing demonstration, organized by BAGI and Palo Alto High School, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 16, and Thursday, Oct. 17, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Paly's "hot shop," Room 105, Art Building. The event is open to the public.

Palo Alto artist Nan Fairty spoke of how she was bitten by the glass-blowing bug. "I have been collecting glass for almost 20 years but began blowing glass only recently. I was introduced to BAGI at last year's glass pumpkin patch and I took a weekend glass workshop at BAGI in January.

"The glass pumpkins are unique because it is up to the artist to pick the shape, color and stem for each pumpkin," she said about this year's pumpkin patch.

Sure enough, you can expect a whole gamut of pumpkins ranging from luminescent, crackled, freckled, light-toned ones to striped, dotted and downright wild `n wacky. As for color, forget bright orange and think glassy stunners in white, blue, green, violet and as many hues and shades you can come up with.

To get that color, molten glass is rolled through crushed colored glass called "frit." The frit sticks to the hot glass and melts into the molten glass mass. Colors can be combined or varied by changing the oxygen/gas ratio. The texture, color and design aspect is the artist's prerogative.

"While working with glass I am focused and immersed in the process. It is extremely satisfying to finish a glass piece," said Ann Duesterberg, a Mountain View-based artist who took glassblowing classes in British Columbia, then honed her skills further at BAGI.

At BAGI, teams of three to four people work in shifts every day to create the pumpkins. The pumpkins range in price from $25 to $1,500 but most are between $50 and $80.

Since glass blowing requires a great deal of equipment such as furnaces for melting the glass, glory holes for reheating it and an annealer for tempering the glass pieces, BAGI's facilities are a god-send for glass blowers.

Founded in 1996, and based in San Jose, BAGI assists budding artists by offering them studio rental time, a place to practice their art, hosting exhibitions and conducting classes. It enables artists to work together and also learn from visiting artists and artists in residence.

BAGI's idea of combining Halloween and glass has proved to be a winner. It also organizes the Great Glass Egg Hunt every March at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara.

Goldstein, who's watched the event over the past couple of years, added, "The fantastic event is getting better and better. The artists have developed more kinds of pumpkins and the works are getting more creative."

E-mail Priya Padmanabhan at [email protected]
BOXWhat: Great Glass Pumpkin Patch 2002 Where: Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto When: Opening reception, Friday, Oct. 11, 6-8 p.m.; display Oct. 12-18, Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. (closed Monday) Pumpkin Sale: Oct. 19, 10 a.m-5 p.m.; Oct. 20, 1-5 p.m. Cost: Admission is free. Info: Call (650) 329-2366 or visit


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