There’s a natural synchronicity that exists between Terrill and Charlie Jenkins, the owners of Tandem Glass in Dresden, Maine. whenever they “light up” their studio together. Connected by fate, these two kindred artists stay true to their unique design identities while alternately assisting each other.
What results from this collaboration are vibrant hand blown glasses, bowls, pitchers and one-of-a-kind pieces that are as pleasing to the hands as they are to the eyes.
You might even say that Charlie and Terrill were in sync with each other before they ever met. Each found their way into glass making as a natural progression from studying other art forms. Charlie first studied pottery at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire, while Terrill discovered glass in high school and then pursued glass blowing and photography at the Museum School of Fine Arts and other colleges in the Boston area.
Fast forward to 1996 when their lives intersected in Northern California after they each moved west to be part of the exciting glass scene. It was in this thriving hub of artists using American, Swedish and Italian glass techniques, that their lives merged and their styles advanced. By 2000, they had a shop of their own in Oakland, California. After a decade on the West Coast, they were drawn back East and settled into the current salt box barn that lends itself to being a studio, showroom and home all in one.
Unlike other mediums, glass blowing often requires two people working in close physical and emotional contact as the gaffer (lead artist) and the assistant strike a balance of being both spontaneous, controlled, and creative as they work together with the hot material. Molten glass is first gathered out of the furnace at the end of a hollow steel tube called a blowpipe and then it is shaped into form with different types of techniques using hand tools at a “working” temperature of 2050 degrees. “It’s really a ‘choreographed improvisation’ if you can picture that”, Terrill explained. “We start out with a specific plan knowing how the glass will behave, but we also allow for the glass to take on its own unique characteristics. While Terrill and Charlie leave plenty of room for creatively exploiting natural variation, Terrill comments that ” for many years we have made work that is within 1/4 inch of specifications. We take great pride in taking something from drawing to 3-d accurately. ” For some items however, like their signature cups, variation is encouraged. “We like them to be individual because the hands that will enjoy them are all unique as well!”
Ideas for their evolving designs change as their interests do. Terrill said they are both “polymorphic” and tap into everything and everyone in their world. “It’s difficult to pinpoint one source of inspiration,” Terrill commented. “Ideas come from former teachers, the music we listen to, the food we enjoy, the nature that surrounds us, and even comic books,” she said enthusiastically.
Captivating and Magical
“It’s been a means of expression for over 20 years and it’s super innate with me,” Terrill reflected, “It’s like my having my own language when I work with molten glass and the light passes through it.” For Charlie, working with the hot and glowing liquid is captivating and magical. “It takes a particular type of person to commit their existence to this type of work,” Charlie admits, “and it doesn’t get easier or less expensive the more we do it, but it’s an incredibly satisfying experience to create something with intent that people respond to.”
They create their beautiful, durable, hand blown glass pieces with the intention that it will be enjoyed, cherished and become a useful part of a person’s daily life. “One thing I love about making a very few special ‘somethings’ is the connection with people who buy them, their subsequent pleasure in the work, and of course the affirmation of someone enjoying me being creative,” Terrill said. “This is the type of art that doesn’t have to sit on the shelf or on the wall, you can interact with it on a daily basis and enjoy it, “Charlie added.
Click here to see Terrill and Charlie’s colorful handmade glass blown pieces.
This profile was written by Connie Fitch, writer, producer, and marketing professional for Common Good Market
This page last reviewed and updated November 27, 2010