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Between Us: John Littleton and Kate Vogel’s Contributions to Glass

Talking Out Your Glass podcast

Release Date: 10/15/2021

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Talking Out Your Glass podcast

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Talking Out Your Glass podcast

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Talking Out Your Glass podcast

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Well-known early on for their signature blown glass Bags, the subsequent cast glass work of John Littleton and Kate Vogel provided a new outlet for complex contemplations, questions and reflections. In this dramatic departure from their lighthearted Bags, faces and hands are used in various poses and combinations to explore states of mind, relationships, and even spiritual themes. Cast arms with hands in amber glass hold a brilliant jewel-cut form, which seems to spread its glowing light to all that surrounds it.

Use of multiple techniques by Littleton and Vogel reveals an intimate understanding of their medium, and the execution of each work reflects artists deserving of their place at the top of the contemporary glass movement. Not only visually stunning, their sculpture allows the viewer to create a narrative, each piece a captured moment in a story of the viewers’ choosing.

They state: “As we focus on each form, we see possibilities for the next, and our vocabulary of form and ideas expands. We bounce ideas back and forth, we build on each other’s concepts, and we learn from each other’s insights. Collaboration brings our individual sensibilities together to generate something neither of us would have made alone. “

Littleton and Vogel are nationally renowned American Studio Glass Movement artists who work and reside in Bakersville, North Carolina. Their creative partnership began in the mid-to-late 20th century, when they began collaborating on their first glass pieces in 1979 after meeting as art students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 

Creating sculptural blown and cast glass works and installations that speak to the importance of their relationships to one another, their family, and their community, Littleton and Vogel currently exhibit their works in Between Us: A Retrospective Exhibition of Work by John Littleton and Kate Vogel at the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, Wisconsin. On view now through February 13, 2022, the exhibition is accompanied by a perfect bound 84-page publication with essays by Casey Eichhorn, exhibition curator, and Susie J. Silbert, Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass. 

“This retrospective exhibition highlights important works, milestones, and innovations in their shared careers,” says Casey Eichhorn, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions,” – all while tying their experiences and influences back to John’s father, Harvey Littleton, an American glass artist, educator, and one of the founders of the American Studio Glass Movement.” 

Harvey Littleton, whose influential work will also be shown in the exhibition, is often referred to as the “Father of the Studio Glass Movement.” In his role as an educator, he initiated the first hot glass program offered by an America University at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and promoted the idea of glass as a course of study in university art departments in the United States. Littleton’s students went on to become the dominant figures in the American Studio Glass Movement while broadening the study of glass art and university-level hot glass programs throughout the U.S. 

John Littleton states: “Harvey introduced glass as a medium for artists. The Toledo workshops were dad’s idea. He had help from Norm Schuman and later Dominic Labino. The workshops wouldn’t have happened without him. He certainly had help developing technique, but more than anyone else he saw the possibility of putting glass in the hands of artists. The industrial model was designers who worked on paper passing the design to the factory worker who had little expressive input. There were artist craftsmen and women who worked with glass individually, but dad pursued the idea of glass being available to art students. The early years were a time he pushed to get glass into universities to expand glass’s creative and expressive potential. He saw the need for many artists working with glass for the growth of the field.”

Littleton and Vogel’s work has appeared in several group exhibitions including the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) in Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. Their glass works can also be seen in private and public collections in North America, Europe, and Asia. Locations include the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, AR; the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts in Switzerland; Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark; the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY; The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. Features on their work have appeared in various publications—such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and CBS Sunday Morning. 

Littleton and Vogel state: “Choice, chance, circumstance, seductive qualities of the material…a little bit of all of the above. We stay with glass because it feels right. The process allows us to collaborate, start to finish. Glass is versatile, and we see endless possibilities in it and through it. In our work we strive to make something that is a personal expression of our thoughts and experiences.”