Days Gone By 1972
By: Pat Hunter, archivist, River Falls Journal
River Falls Journal headline: UW-RF art class one of 2 glassblowing courses in state.
The Wisconsin legislature should be very happy with the art department at UW-River Falls, and especially with the class in glassblowing.
Not only is instructor Doug Johnson saving the state money, he pleases the ecology minded by using recycled glass. And by so doing he enriches the coffers of the Luther League, a youth organization of Ezekiel Lutheran.
Time was when glass blowing labs had to pay $200 a ton for the glass cullet (the pieces of glass that go into furnace for melting). Johnson’s lab pays $20 a ton for glass collected in the parking lot of a River Falls supermarket; it is sorted, cleaned and broken into small pieces by the Luther League members. Then it goes to a glass company near the Twin Cities where it is graded “even up” for the proper mixture to charge the glassblowing furnaces.
Not only the raw material needed, but the equipment in the lab has been acquitted at considerable saving. Johnson and his students built the two furnaces, glory hole, annealing ovens, and almost all of the tools used in blowing glass. That achievement, according to Johnson is comparable to industrial arts students manufacturing their own saws, lathes, and drills before they begin the actual work with wood or metal.
Only two universities in Wisconsin offer glassblowing as a creative art form: River Falls and Madison.
Since 1967 when Johnson first introduced the course at River Falls, a number of students have gone on to further work in creative glassblowing.
When Fred Daden of the Royal College of Art in London was a guest artist at River Falls two years ago, he inspired two students to join him in London for a period of advanced study.
Among those enrolled in glassblowing here are Gary Enloe, Andrew Magdanz, Russell Prieve and Kurt Wiger.