Eagerly seeking a career that utilized my hands and was not in the typical office setting, I found myself at the Penland School of Crafts in 1996. My studies first beganin the iron forge and wood shop but quickly gravitated to the hot glass studio. It was there that I found the ultimate malleable material for a medium, hot glass. I was captivated by it and became determined to start down the long road of making beautiful objects from glass.
After my first semester of glass studies, with Bill Worcester, I was hired by Great Southern Glassworks in Asheville, N.C. There I was assistant to Andrew Merrick and Roddy Capers, a position I would have until 1999. I was able to attend the Penland School while working for Great Southern and studied there extensively in 1997 and 98. During this time I was fortunate enough to study with Jack Wax, Billy Bernstien, Jose Chardiet, Gianni Toso and Richard Rittter.
In 1999 I was able to attend the Pilchuck glass school in Stanwood, WA. It was there that I studied with czech glass master Petr Novotny. The time at Pilchick with Petr, Ivan Kubela and Borek Sipek truly broadened my glass horizons and solidified my love for ancient european glass, its techniques and its heritage. In 2000 I returned to the Penland school for studies with Tom Farbanish and later that summer Thurman Statom.
In 2001 while attending a class at Penland taught by Katrina Hude, I was hired by Kenny Pieper which began while he was still Director of the Penland glass program and went on to include the building of his first personal studio in Burnsville N.C. It was during that time in 2002 I began seasonal studies at the Corning Museum of Glass, first with Bill Gudenrath and then with Italian glass maestro Elio Quarisa. I would return more than several times over the next few years, as either a student or teaching assistant. In 2003 I became assistant to Joe Neilander of Neilander Glass in Spruce Pine N.C. and continued that for the next two years while attending seasonal studies at Corning. In 2004 I was selected to be a teaching assistant for the Penland School of Crafts 75th Anniversary session that was hosted by Richard Jolley, Henrey Halem, Tom Philabaum, Gary Beecham and more.
Having come later in my glass education, my time at Corning with Elio seemed to have the most profound effects both in and out of the studio. Broadening my depth technically as well as an education in how one ages with a true passion. In 2004 I moved from the Penland area to my native South Carolina and built my own hot glass studio, Russell Glassworks, in Camden, S.C.