Some students spend months searching for the opportunity that will give them real world experience, networking and pieces to add to their portfolio. For seniors Avery Muff and Christian Hessler, the Corning Museum of Glass, an internationally renowned glass museum in Corning, New York, proved to be the perfect opportunity.
Muff, who grew up in Hastings, Nebraska, is a philosophy and studio art double major with an emphasis in glass blowing. His love of glass blowing only began during the summer of his junior year at Hastings College. “I’ve had many interests, but glass blowing is it for me,” said Muff.
“I took a glass blowing class on a whim,” he said. “I was drawn to the elegance of the material and that made me curious about what it could do. Glass is a fascinating medium, with a fascinating history. Every time I gather glass out of the furnace, I’m lit up and motivated.”
Hessler, also a Hastings native, studies computer science and studio art. “I decided that glass was my medium because it was the only thing that occupied my mind,” he said. “It is the only thing that I’m excited about doing every time I do it. I love glass.”
The duo scored internships at the Corning Museum of Glass, where another Hastings College graduate has worked for many summers, and made the 19 hour trip from Hastings to Corning in May 2021.
The job required Muff and Hessler to work five days a week perfecting their craft.
Primarily, the two were “on the floor” with three to four other artists for about 40 hours a week. Hessler explained that a typical workday included a rotating schedule.
“There’s a greeter who welcomes guests onto the floor to meet Avery or myself,” Hessler said. “Us as artists have 15 minutes with the guests where we’re sculpting ornaments and special projects, and then the process repeats itself.”
Over the course of 16 weeks, the pair adapted skills they call “The Corning Way” — which Muff explained means “you learn how to make a good sculpture every single time.”
Beyond the development of micro-skills needed to become a skilled glassblower, the two grew their network.
“You’re surrounded by a cohort of glassblowers, there’s flame working and you tend to see glassblowing in so many variations,” Muff said.
Hessler said when asked to work with others, “you don’t say no. You get your name out there, share skills and learn skills.”
Both artists said that the journey to Corning was made possible by the experiences they had at Hastings College. For Muff it was a single class. For Hessler, it was a professor who saw his talent.
“Immediately after starting a beginner class,” Hessler said, “I felt this passion ignite and Tom Kreager, my professor then, saw that as well.”
Hessler said Kreager invited him to every one of his blow slots for gallery showings and it wasn’t until he saw his name in a pamphlet at a gallery that he realized he could pursue the technical skills required for glassblowing.
“I’ve developed so much as a glassblower,” he said. “You know something is for you when it doesn’t feel like work.”