The 2014 NICHE Awards handed to winners this January had a distinctly different look from those of previous years, thanks to the versatile team of Joel Bless and Candace Luke-Bless.
The couple began collaborating in 1980, combining his background in glassblowing and hers in printmaking. By 1981, they had incorporated as Glasslight Studio, and in 1985 moved to St. Peters, Pa., where they set up their current glass studio and showroom (www.glasslightstudio.com). Since then, they’ve expanded their skills, leading to a broader product line and an invitation to create the new NICHE Awards.
Joel developed expertise in vertical glass casting, including for vases, menorahs and candlesticks that became popular with customers. In 1999 Candace began working with fused and slumped glass, creating a line of glass tiles. A series of bowls and platters followed, and, more recently, tabletops that sit on handmade metal bases created in the studio.
Glasslight has also been creating corporate awards. When the Rosen Group approached them about redesigning its NICHE Award, “they pretty much left it up to us,” Joel said. It was 2012, and he and Candace wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the American studio glass movement. They fine-tuned the design, periodically sending photos to the Rosen Group to show their progress.
Working with hot glass, they and their staff created a layered look by using two sets of powders, then sculpting the glass into solid, hard-formed, “upward flowing images.” The result, Candace noted, is that each piece is slightly different. A colleague provides the etching on all the awards Glasslight makes.