2016 Glass Fashion Show at GAS Corning New York
May 25, 2016
Laura Donefer brings her Glass Fashion Extravaganza to the Glass Art Society’s 45th Conference
CORNING, N.Y.— They called it “outrageous, exuberant! A fantastical spectacle for the international glass community to relish.” And Laura Donefer knew she had created a spectacular new way to view glass. It was 1989, and she had just put on her first Glass Fashion Show for Glass Art Society (GAS) conference attendees. Fast forward 27 years, and Donefer is working on her twelfth show for the 45th annual GAS conference, taking place at The Corning Museum of Glass and other venues in Corning, NY, from June 9-11. With more than 110 glass costumes designed and worn by glass artists from all corners of the globe, Donefer says this Glass Fashion Show will be “absolutely epic.”
Donefer is an award-winning artist who has been using glass as her primary medium for more than three decades, often in combination with diverse materials. Known for her innovative, colorful blown glass and flameworked “Amulet Baskets,” Donefer has been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries with work that explores ideas concerning memory, assault, bereavement, joy, and madness. Her work is in many public and private collections, and after 34 years in glass she has received multiple awards, including the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Glass Art Association of Canada. Perhaps her most colloquially-famous title is one she never expected to have: “the Diva of Glass Fashion.”
“I am a glass artist—and not at all trained in fashion,” Donefer said. “In my wildest dreams, I never expected anything like this to take over my life. I’ve even been asked to lecture in Paris about glass fashion! Truly, it is all about entertainment. For the artists involved, it is about creating something spectacular to wear from a material that is not normally used on the body. Being involved in the Glass Fashion Show stretches their creativity and their imaginations, and the end result is nothing short of awe-inspiring!”
In 1988 Donefer, as President of the Glass Art Association of Canada, was the co-chair of the first international Glass Art Society conference taking place in Toronto, and knew she needed to make the conference really memorable.
“What unforgettable event could I present that brought Canadian artists working with glass out of their separate studios and into the international spotlight?” said Donefer. “Taking a chance, I rented the magnificent Royal York Hotel ballroom in Toronto, and in 1989, the first Glass Fashion Show was born. It was a smash success, the audience went wild.”
Since that time, Donefer has organized additional shows for GAS conferences, select glass-related events, and even one for the City of Seattle’s New Year’s Eve Party. Some have been themed—like the Burlesque Glass Fashion Show in New Orleans—and others have pushed boundaries in new ways, like the show in Montreal where Canadian glass artists were paired with top Canadian fashion designers to come up with haute couture glasswear. Years later, one fashion designer still creates pieces for the Paris runway incorporating glass elements.
It takes Donefer several years to put together a Glass Fashion Show, but she’s not alone in the creative process. Artists start working on their costumes years in advance, as well.
“Some of the costumes are very elaborate with thousands of pieces,”
Donefer said. “We have ones that glow in the dark and ones that are lit up. Every type of glass is represented: recycled, flameworked, blown, kiln-worked, and combinations of them all. There’s usually at least one neon costume. Some are extremely heavy, weighing more than 50 pounds. One year, a costume was built on wheels and we had to roll her up and down a ramp to get on the stage.”
Throughout the process, Donefer is in constant communication with the artists, requesting drawings of each stage of fabrication and a photo of the finished costume.
“I want to know what to be ready for,” she said. “One year a costume was too large to get through the doors!”
For this show, Laura is prepared for an outfit with thousands of small purple glass needles sewn onto it to look like fur, and a complex costume coming from an artist who creates it in Japan, takes it, disassembles it, brings it across the ocean in a suitcase, then takes a full day to put it back together in a room at The Corning Museum of Glass. There will be a show stopper that is a full-regalia beadworked costume created by an award-winning Métis artist who is driving the creation with her from Manitoba.
“We have people coming from New Zealand, Argentina, all over Europe, Canada, and Japan,” said Donefer. “This is a huge production. Each Glass Fashion Show has been an extremely memorable occasion with fantastic costumes, and out-of-this-world onstage energy. It is more a performance than an actual fashion show, with loud music and some pretty outrageous dance moves by the artists wearing their own creations on the catwalk.
This year the Glass Fashion Extravaganza in Corning will be the biggest and most elaborate one yet!
The Glass Fashion Show is part of the 45th Glass Art Society conference in Corning, NY, and is only open to conference registrants. Registration for the conference is available online at glassart.org through May 20 and on-site at the Radisson Hotel Corning from June 8-11. To learn more about the Glass Fashion Show and the Glass Art Society conference, visit glassart.org.