Terra Studios makes best choice for the world right now

Terra Studios makes best choice for the world right now


Making Ripples

Terra Studios recently announced that they will be suspending glass blowing demonstrations and ceasing production of their classic Bluebirds of Happiness until technology is available to make the process less harmful to the environment. Glass blowing consumes natural gas and requires high amounts of electricity, but solutions exist to make the art form more sustainable.

“In light of the climate emergency we face and our responsibility to our children, grandchildren and to life itself, Terra Studios will in January 2020 suspend creation of the Bluebirds of Happiness. Bluebird demonstrations will proceed through this holiday season.” None of the artists or workers will be fired due to this decision, and Terra Studios is not closing. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.

It may seem like a locally specific problem not relevant outside Terra Studios, but actually, the issue has already been discussed around the world by glass blowers. Artists and entrepreneurs are pushing for more sustainable glass blowing options. This year, Seattle held “Refract,” a glass blowing festival for the northwest region. It celebrated the history of glass-art making and increased the focus on sustainability. The craft has already shifted from deforestation thousands of years ago when only wood-burning stoves were used, then to coal, then natural gas. The future? More efficient equipment, recycled glass and maybe some vegetable oil.

Tacoma’s Museum of Glass in Washington state installed new equipment that reduced natural gas consumption by 40 percent, but this requires large up-front investments. In an interview on Crosscut.com, Julie Conway of Illuminata Art Class Design launched a new glass product line “made from 100 percent recycled glass produced in a furnace that runs on vegetable oil and methane digesters.” But she had to go to Mexico to build her furnace, because regulations in the United States make it too hard to use renewable sources of energy. Conway founded BioGlass.org to promote these new technologies in glass art and improve energy efficiency. Conway argues that “achieving industrywide change demands a collective effort from glass art collectors, funders, education centers, galleries and makers.” So, our own Terra Studios just stepped up to the plate.

Not surprisingly, reactions were a mixture of sad, supportive and incredulous. In response to comments that claimed there is no need to use sustainable practices because the climate is doing just fine, Terra Studios wrote: “It is possible that we, and the majority of scientists globally, are wrong, and if we are, we will have lost some art and money. However, should the climate crisis prove true, we can confidently say we’ve been good stewards and taken action to safeguard this beautiful Earth we all share.”

Other bluebird fans had concerns about the environment, but thought that Terra Studios has such a small impact (compared to other problems in the world) that they shouldn’t become more sustainable. It’s up to big polluting countries and industries to stop harming the world, some claim, not the little countries, small businesses or individuals. (Luckily, the countries who went carbon neutral do not share that opinion.) It’s quite true that there will always be somebody doing more harm than we are, and somebody doing less harm.

As artists like to say, there will always be somebody better at your craft than you, and somebody who sucks at it, but don’t compare yourself to others; instead, look at how good or bad your artwork is today, and challenge yourself to make it as good as you want it to be in the future.

The same concept can be applied to Terra Studios’ announcement. They’ve chosen to find a way to sustainably produce their lovely bluebirds, even though there are worse ways to harm the world than glass blowing. If all the big polluters in the world up and stopped polluting, I think Terra Studios would still want to do the right thing and reduce their pollution, because pollution is bad. Just because your neighbor drives to work doesn’t mean that you also must drive instead of bicycling, despite your relatively small impact. Thinking that one is too insignificant is a reason why few people vote, which has negatively affected environmental policies, too.

Some criticized the decision to cease bluebird production, claiming that Terra Studios doesn’t need to stop glass blowing unless they go “all the way” and give their building back to nature, go vegan, stop driving, etc. Is it better to do all-or-nothing? Of course not. Go ahead and switch to renewable energy if you want, even if you’re not vegan like your friends. It’s OK if you feel you have to drive often, but that doesn’t stop you from installing a rain barrel to conserve water. Terra Studios chose to make a big change in a way that works for them, and we all have the freedom to choose what steps we take, too.

Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www.RipplesBlog.org.

Categories: Making Ripples