Meet Michael Janis
After a 20-year career as an architect in the United States and Australia, I returned to the US with a focus on working with glass. In 2005, I became the Co-Director of the Washington Glass School and Studio in Washington, DC. I have taught workshops on my techniques in glass around the world. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2012, I went to England’s University of Sunderland and taught at the UK’s National Glass Centre where I became an Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for International Research in Glass (IIRG).
I have received numerous awards for my artwork including the Florida Art Glass Alliance’s Emerging Artist Award 2009, the Bay Area Glass Institute’s 2010 Saxe Fellowship and he was named a “Rising Star” at Wheaton Arts 2011. Massachusetts’ Fuller Craft Museum mounted a solo show of Janis’ glass panels and sculpture in 2011, where they have one of my works for its permanent collection. My artwork is also in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the US Bucharest Embassy and most recently, St Petersburg’s Imagine Museum.
The James Renwick Alliance named him Distinguished Glass Artist for 2014, and I presented and lectured about my artwork at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC in 2014.
In 2016, I received the 31st Annual Mayor’s Arts Award for “Excellence in the Arts”. The Mayors Arts Awards are the most prestigious honors conferred by Washington, DC on individual artists, teachers, nonprofit organizations, and patrons of the arts.
Glass is a seemingly untamable medium, continually floating in the lingering discourse between Art and Craft.
For those outside the Art world: if something can be used for a purpose (for instance a bowl) it’s often considered a work of Craft, and if it not, it can be considered a work of Art.
Since the start of the Studio Glass Movement, in the 1960’s in the United States, glass artists have worked the medium to communicate their concepts. While some artists continue to reflect the deep history of glass with traditional techniques, I explore contemporary art rather than craft production.
I make my glass powder drawings by sifting finely crushed colored glass onto sheets of flat glass. By scraping and scratching the powder with an X-acto knife or a rubber tipped shaper, I can create incredibly detailed imagery. I have an almost obsessive focus that served me well when I was an architect, and now allows me to sit for hours maneuvering frit powder into intricate forms that populate my narratives. I like engaging others with what I make, and incorporating both abstract and representational forms gives me the ability to tell stories and make the artwork something not just by me, but of me.
The concept of success is an elusive construct. For me, success lies in the ability to devote my time and energy to art-making. For me, the artwork is really within the thought process and creating concepts that gives me a feeling, that helps makes sense of the world, and that lives beyond me is what drives me forward.
Another success is having one’s work constantly evolve, without losing the unique perspective and signature style.
Recently, I have been working on collaborative artworks – and find the need to communicate and create with another artist a challenge. This is something that excites me – and takes me out of my comfort zone.