The difference between a blog and Facebook?

On a blog, no one talks to you. Ask a question? Good luck. On Facebook everyone is so busy yabbering that your questions are drowned out by all the other chatter. But more often than not, people respond. Silly stuff sometimes. But at least you’re heard.

It’s kind of like speaking on stage compared to blathering in the local pub. And with Facebook you don’t really need a prepared speech. Anything seems to fly.

Get AWAY from me with that stupid camera – go embarrass some of your human friends!

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I know, I know. Late again.

My American summer got buried in art fairs, our new Santa Fe resource center and just keeping my head above the flood waters.

I’ve just landed again in the Northern Highlands of Scotland – after an inspiring visit to the International Festival of Glass in Stourbridge – and elated to be back in the place where I and 13 artists left our hearts earlier this summer.

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It’s hard to turn around in northern Scotland without bumping into a church. They seem – to me at least – nearly as ubiquitous as the sheep. This is probably due to the numerous religious schisms that resulted in denominations of Catholic, Presbyterian, Free Church, United Free, Wee Free and even Wee Wee Free erecting or maintaining an increasing number of places of worship for an ever-decreasing population.

To be honest, I’m not sure which faith St Mary’s represented. Like so many churches in the area today, it is derelict, despite the fact that it sits prominently on the main street of Lybster village and quite close to the studios of North Lands Creative Glass.

Like many decommissioned church properties, its gutted shell was sold in recent years, but due to extreme costs, not yet refurbished. This has not stopped years of artists at North Lands from exploring its bones and leaving their delicate marks on its mysterious interior.

Like Harbour House, St Mary’s is a testament to the indomitable spirit of a place that, while tumbling down, still has the power to lift souls.

This June some of those souls looked at St Mary’s, as they did Harbour House, with an eye to “kiln-glass in the built environment”. Their visions ranged from topographic renderings to site-specific sound and light installations to adventuresome plots for community-building, all anchored in the conviction that art – and glass as an especially evocative medium – can reconnect the lost threads of time and place.

NEXT: The Artists-in-Residence

I’m back home in Portland, Oregon after five weeks bouncing around Britain, juggling everything from an art fair in London to lamb watching in the Scottish Highlands.

Smack in the middle of it all I got to watch an amazing residency that over eight short days knitted together thirteen artists, two old buildings, and one tiny village  – with a glass thread that I expect to hold strong for years to come.

Day before the residency begins: Steve, Karlyn & Richard experience  the slippery slope outside Harbour House.

It all started with two remarkable artist/teachers, Steve Klein and Richard Parrish and the idea to explore “Kiln-glass in the Built Environment” in a private residency at North Lands Creative Glass.

They called the project “IN PLACE” and over the space of many months selected eleven participants from around the world.

NEXT: The Places.

Klaus Moje at SOFA Chicago 2009

One key measure of a teaching artist is the caliber of his students. Klaus Moje – and the glass workshop that he founded at the Canberra School of Art in 1982 – has produced many of the most talented artists working in kiln-glass today.

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Moje with students at the Pilchuck Glass School, 1997.

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In June artist Steve Klein was teaching in La Granja, Spain. By July he had led a professional artist-in-residence program at the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. It’s August now and he’s co-teaching a workshop with Kaffe Fassett at North Lands Creative Glass here in Scotland. This fall he’ll be at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem.

Steve claims to have bad knees. I can’t imagine how much faster he’d move with good ones.

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Richard Whiteley leading a masterclass at North Lands Creative Glass in 2004.

TEACHING ARTIST. The title has a mildly incongruous ring to it. Like Galloping Gourmet or Flying Nun.

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Dan Klein
1938-2009

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Dan and Max.

Of all the creatures that adored him, surely hyperactive puppies topped the list.

For someone who – purely without intention – epitomized the proper British gentleman, Dan Klein had an odd way of dealing with exuberance. He encouraged it.

The month after 9/11 when I asked him – rhetorically, I thought – where to go in a world gone mad, he said with charm-stuffed conviction “Come to North Lands”.

I went.

A year later, after I’d fallen deliriously in love with one of the most remote corners of the planet and found a pile of old stones that I thought I couldn’t live without but was sure we couldn’t afford, he nudged me towards the dream “You’ll regret it more if you don’t than if you do”.

We did.

Dan changed my life – our lives, my own Dan’s and mine. He encouraged our exuberance, our risk-taking, and our passions.

But my stories are small, short and irrelevantly personal, compared to the larger dreams that Dan Klein brought to life. Among them, the existence of one of the world’s most magical glass programs. North Lands Creative Glass is a testament to Dan’s willingness and ability to turn a quirky little Highland fishing village into a world-calibre glass centre.

I was packing for North Lands when I learned that Dan died yesterday.

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He will be so very, very missed by all of us who loved him so very, very much – not least I’m sure, the madcap puppies.

How many of you know that 2009 is the Year of Homecoming in Scotland?

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It sure felt that way last weekend when many of us gathered for two sensational events: a benefit whisky tasting hosted by William Grant & Sons distillers on Saturday night and a panel discussion the following day by four artists who have taught and studied at my favorite school: North Lands Creative Glass.

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