Thomas Stearns

Oklahoma City 1936 — Philadelphia 2006

An American designer, Thomas Stearns decided to learn the art of glassblowing at the end of the 1950s. The style he developed evoked Venetian ambience in terms of colour and work technique to breathtaking results.

A Fulbright scholarship awarded in 1959 brought him to Venice and an apprenticeship at Vetreria Venini. In the two years he spent in Murano (1960 — 62) as the first salaried guest designer, he studied the glassblowing process in detail, directing his attention primarily to the errors and mishaps that occur during working. Subsequently working in close contact with the master furnace workers, he produced a remarkable collection. The style of three-dimensional shapes he preferred did not always mirror the line imagined initially. Never having learned Italian, Stearns was always a solitary outsider, and was perhaps driven by his isolation to explore new directions and concepts beyond the world of glass.

Immersing himself completely in his art, he paid homage to Venice and her mysteries and the colours of her lagoon, night and day. Inspired by the Abstract Expressionist movement taking hold in America, Stearns was concerned with capturing emotions through the forms and bright colours of glass. Checco Ongaro, one of Venini’s youngest master glassworkers, worked at his side in creating new, evocative models that were emphatically far from tradition. Leaving Venini, Stearns also left glass behind, and turned his attention to sculpture.