Paul J. Stankard, world-renowned glass artist, serving as Edelman CCCA artist-in-residence

Paul J. Stankard, world-renowned glass artist, serving as Edelman CCCA artist-in-residence


To watch him work is to witness genius – a master artisan wielding a pinpoint, 10-inch flame so hot it melts colored glass, which he then presses and molds into exotic shapes for finished art.

World-renowned glass artist Paul J. Stankard, a Boston-area transplant who for more than 60 years has called southern New Jersey home, this year serves as artist-in-residence for students in Rowan University’s Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts.

His work, glass orbs and cubes that sell for thousands of dollars, is breathtakingly creative. Embedded with intricate, hand-blown sculptures of regional plants, flowers, even human figures, Stankard’s work is on display or has been shown in the world’s best-loved galleries, from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Louvre in Paris.

“I make all of the floral components from glass, then encapsulate them in glass,” Stankard, of Mantua Township, said from his home studio.

His movements are swift, delicate, but sure as he works around a flame ranging from 1,800 to more than 4,000 degrees. For one recent piece, he melted a thin, red glass rod, then stretched it so he could press out rose petals. Using the same technique, Stankard makes fruit, bees and other intricate features that seem to float in spheres of solid glass.

“I’ve been sitting behind the bench like this for 62 years and I still love it,” he said with a sly wink.

Dr. Sanford Tweedie, dean of Edelman CCCA, said between Stankard’s clear brilliance and passion for his work, he’ll be a great inspiration to student artists. As artist-in-residence, Stankard will interact with students in his home studio and on campus, give talks and demonstrate how he creates his celebrated art.

“This is an opportunity for students to work with artistic genius,” Tweedie said. “He’s got 60-plus years of success in this field and still has an innocent delight in what he does.”

A documentary about his life and work, Paul J. Stankard: Fire and Flame, by award-winning director Daniel R. Collins, will screen on campus at 6:30 p.m. April 11 in King Auditorium in Bozorth Hall. (See trailer below.) Stankard will participate in a Q&A afterwards.

Tweedie said additional glass-related programming within Edelman CCCA could soon be in the works.


From industry to art

Stankard’s career was inspired by his father, an organic chemist whose array of fine scientific glassware intrigued him. After earning a technical certification in scientific glassblowing from Salem Community College in 1962, Stankard worked for about ten years making a wide array of vessels for scientists.

“I’d make beakers, vacuum equipment, distillation heads, all kinds of stuff from heat-resistant borosilicate glass, and I loved it,” Stankard said.

He soon found himself drawn to creating small gift items, like tiny glass horses that his then-girlfriend (now wife) loved, as well as paperweights, which Stankard described as a “South Jersey tradition.”

That tradition, he said, originated in France, where fine glass paperweights became popular following the Industrial Revolution when there was a wider availability of writing paper.

Though they also became popular in the U.S., American glass paperweights were considered inferior to expensive, high-quality French ones, and Stankard committed himself to making similarly fine art pieces. Selling them on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1972, he was discovered by famed art gallerist Reese Palley, who encouraged Stankard to pursue a full-time career in art, and he did.


Deep connection to Rowan

Stankard, who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Rowan in 1997, donated one of his works, “Pinelands Bouquet,” to the institution in 2000. Rowan this year commissioned a piece by Stankard for Nobel Prize-winning chemist and Princeton University Professor David MacMillan, who spoke at the University as part of the Centennial Lecture Series Feb. 16.

Stankard taught flamework glass at Rowan as an adjunct in the 1990s.

During his residency, Stankard said he’ll urge them to pursue their passion, whatever it is.

“As an artist, you have to find out what you care about, and become obsessed with it,” he said.

See Stankard’s work and learn more about him at

View the Fire & Flame trailer: