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Sam Herman Art Glass Vases

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Sam Herman (1936 – 2020) was a renowned glass artist, painter, and sculptor, standing as a central figure in the Studio Glass Movement. Widely acknowledged as the founding father of this movement in Great Britain and Australia, Herman’s influence is seminal. He inspired a generation of glass artists and developed revolutionary techniques that made colours in blown glass more textured and fluid. In this feature we take a look at some of the Sam Herman art glass vase designs along with some realised prices at auction. In further features we will explore his other glass work such as bottles and his other designs.

SAM HERMAN A STUDIO GLASS VASE Circa 1980 In clear glass with abstract design and iridescent patches
Sam Herman A Studio Glass Vase Circa 1980 In clear glass with abstract design and iridescent patches, etched signature Samuel Herman, 16cm high by 24cm at widest point. Sold for £900 at Bellmans, December 2023.

The Studio Glass Movement revolutionized the perception of glass as an art form. Prior to the 1960s, glass ‘art’ followed the ‘design and make’ principle, separating the designer from the craftsman glassblower. This separation left little room for creative expression. Herman’s educational journey began at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1962. He continued his studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under Professor Harvey Littleton, one of the founders of the Studio Glass movement, and sculptor Leo Steppart, receiving his MFA in 1965.

Professor Harvey Littleton and Dominic Labino sought to break this traditional model by building a small tank-furnace and developing glass that melted at lower temperatures. These innovations allowed the artist direct access to the material, merging designer and maker into one, and thus, the Studio Glass Movement was born.

Vase Object Samuel J Herman 1980s Colourless glass with a slightly opalescent underlay and coloured meltings
Vase Object Samuel J. Herman, 1980s Colourless glass with a slightly opalescent underlay and coloured meltings. Iridescent. Free-formed. Underside signed and inscribed: Samuel J. Herman – VAL 199. H. 32.5 cm. Sold for 600 Euros at
Dr. Fischer Kunstauktionen, April 2024.

As one of Littleton’s first students, Herman played a crucial role in spreading the Studio Glass movement to Great Britain and Australia. After studying in Edinburgh, he became a Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, where he later headed the Glass Department from 1967 to 1974. In 1969, he established The Glasshouse in London, the first glass studio of its kind in Great Britain, which allowed graduate students to further develop their skills and business acumen. Herman’s influence extended beyond the UK. In 1974, he travelled to Australia to set up the glass area at Jam Factory Workshops in Adelaide, creating the country’s first hot glass studio. He remained in Australia until 1979, during which time he continued to create glass sculptures, exhibit, and conduct workshops.

Sam Herman a tall green shouldered vase dated 1977 made at the Jam Factory South Australia
Sam Herman a tall shouldered vase, dated 1977, made at the Jam Factory, South Australia, pale green glass body surface decorated with metallic oxide swirls, etched SA1850 Samuel J Herman 1977 34.5cm. high. Sold for £1,100 at
Woolley & Wallis, October 2015.

Typical Sam Herman vases are of freeform shape, with swirling different colours with patches of iridescence.

Upon returning to England in 1979, Herman set up a personal glass studio in London and headed the glass area at Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education. His tenure at the college, which lasted until 1990, saw him become head of the Ceramics and Glass Department. His teaching and influence nurtured a generation of glass artists, including Michael Harris, Peter Aldridge, Clifford Rainey, Jane Bruce, Pauline Solven, Annette Meech, Steven Newell, and Jiri Suhajek.

Samuel Herman Signed Studio Art Glass Vase for Val St Lambert Belgium
Samuel Herman Signed Studio Art Glass Vase for Val St Lambert Belgium. Sold for £390 on ebay, March 2024.

In addition to his influential role in the Studio Glass movement, Sam Herman also made significant contributions to commercial glass art through his collaboration with the renowned Belgian glass manufacturer Val St Lambert. Around 1971, Herman began producing a line of art glass vases and other glassware for Val St Lambert. This collaboration allowed him to bring his innovative techniques and unique aesthetic to a broader audience. His work with Val St Lambert was characterized by vibrant colors and textured, fluid forms, which distinguished his pieces from traditional glassware.

Sam Herman Art Glass Vases

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Herman’s contributions to the glass art world were widely recognized. His work was collected by prestigious institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Smithsonian Institution. Major exhibitions of his work were held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1971 and in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1974, curated by Wolfgang Kermer. In the later years of his career, Herman shifted his focus to painting and sculpture, drawing inspiration from the landscapes of Mallorca, where he moved in 1984. Despite his shift in focus, he occasionally returned to glassmaking, notably in 2012 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass movement.

Sam Herman passed away on 29 November 2020, leaving behind his wife Joanna, whom he married in 2010, his children David and Sarah from his first marriage, and a granddaughter, Alice. His legacy continues to inspire and influence the world of contemporary glass art.

Reference
Sam Herman Overview at Frestonian Gallery


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