When he first learned of the Banana Factory Arts and Education Center and its glass studio, it was only a matter of time before Dan Getz found his way to the Lehigh Valley to live and work here. A Maryland native, Getz first set foot in the Valley when he was hired to assist with creation and installation of The Four Elements sculpture at the Musikfest Café. Now he is the Glass Studio Lead Gaffer at The ArtsQuest Glass Studio located in the Banana Factory.
From glass sculpting and glass blowing to creating bespoke works through detailed Venetian, Czech, and Swedish techniques, Dan Getz is a master of many trades in the vein of glass artistry. His beginnings in glasswork stem from his time studying as a sculpture major at the University of Salisbury in Maryland. While there, he took a glass sculpting class as an elective and found a true fondness for glass as a medium. That fondness soon deepened when he explored his talents in a unique neon glass sculpting class where students created and filled handmade hollow sculptures with neon gas.
“Glass can be used to create things you can’t achieve in any other medium,” Getz says. “You capture the fluidity of the glass. I also like how immediate of a medium it is in that a lot of the pieces can be created relatively fast. Some sculptures I used to work on, when with clay or metal, might take me months to complete, working a little at a time, whereas with glass, I work for like a six to eight hour day and I can complete a few different sculptures in that time. Glass sculpture can capture the mood or attitude of what I’m trying to say a little easier than the other mediums.”
“A lot of people don’t think they are creative until they push themselves to be. That’s what I push them to do because it’s important to balance creativity in their life.” – Dan Getz
As lead gaffer, Dan Getz draws inspiration for ArtsQuest Glass creations as well as innovative classes, workshops, and hot glass experiences. His role gives him creative control over the production line, commissions, and repairs in the glass studio. As a team leader, he conceives of new and exciting designs and also brings them to life on the floor. He’s also partnered with other fine artists specialized in other mediums, translating their creative ideas into glass. And along with his responsibilities, Getz also gets several hours to a full day each Wednesday to work on his own creations, like an iPhone speaker he designed that is now available for sale through ArtsQuest.
“I like to use transparent colors to show that it’s glass,” Getz says. “I like the transparency – you really can’t achieve that in any other material other than plastic, which is really hard to work with. When it comes to sculpting and sculptures, I use a lot of glass powders, put all the color on the surface, and I usually scar the surface a little bit with the torches we use. This later allows me to clean the surface by sandblasting so it gives you a perfect sheen and you don’t see any of the flame marks.”
Adding a little bit of local flavor, the glass studio’s Bethlehem Stars tend to be the simplest item the artisans make, but certainly a popular one. The design suspends from a hook on a stand, perfect for hanging from the window.
“It’s a super simple design,” Getz says. “People like them. They are nice ornaments and a good reminder of Bethlehem.”
While no dedicated gallery yet exists, Getz and his team have enjoyed having numerous personal and collaborative glass creations displayed at various businesses, shows, and galleries in the area. Glass creations from the artists working out of the Banana Factory eventually find their way into homes and on occasion to special galleries where they are displayed briefly and then sold. Such is the case with a recent large scale glasswork project that ran as a four-week concentration class with four talented students and several instructors including Getz. Recently, Dan Getz saw that other glass studios didn’t seem to offer this type of class, so he created it.
The final work from the multi-week concentration – a large hanging seascape armature – features fish, starfish, seaweed, plant life, renderings of water – all made out of glass. The RE:find Gallery in Easton showcased the artwork in a collection entitled “From the Furnace” from April 30 through May 29 this year. The students in the class even came out to assist with the actual installation, encompassing about eight hours.
“I didn’t think I was going to be a good teacher,” Getz shares. “I didn’t have any experience until I started teaching class, always trying to be positive and encouraging. Teaching there is nice because a lot of the people have full-time jobs and come out to blow glass and most of our students have a real passion for it. It’s great to unlock people’s creativity through glass blowing. A lot of people don’t think they are creative until they push themselves to be. That’s what I push them to do because it’s important to balance creativity in their life.
“All the students help me with my own work as well,” Getz says. “The better you can teach somebody, the better they can help you. They are getting value but they are also giving it back to me. Glass blowing is still very magical to people.”
Beginner glass students and even children from age six and up can create their own unique works of art in a matter of just 20 minutes at the ArtsQuest Glass Studio. From flowers to waves, ornaments, and seashells, plenty of upcoming hot glass experience classes at The ArtsQuest Glass Studio located in the Banana Factory are already scheduled for the coming months. You can also find the glass studio team at the ArtsQuest festivals – Musikfest, Oktoberfest, and Christkindlmarkt – along with the mobile glass blowing studio, allowing you to make your own creation.