Creative Connections: Perspectives from glass and stone work
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As hip-hop culture exploded across the East Coast in the 1980s, a teenage Greg Grasso was skating the streets and discovering his interest in art.
“I was really intrigued by the graffiti and lettering,” Grasso said. “Obviously, I didn’t want to go spray-paint a bunch of trains because I thought I would get into a bunch of trouble, so I started doing that type of work with marker and pastel.”
Those early elements of his portfolio may be lost to time, but they secured the Rhode Island native a spot in art school.
In fact, he attended three different art schools across three states by 1994. Ever the individualist, Grasso said he was interested in exploring what the different art scenes had to offer.
“There are so many different people to learn from, and I noticed the portfolios of the kids (from one school) would all be really similar,” he said.
It was during those years Grasso discovered his love of rocks, though not quite in the same way as he works with them now in his glass and stone shop. Grasso traveled as a rock and ice climber, which eventually landed him in Steamboat Springs where he met his wife and business partner, ceramic artist Julie Anderson. They recall the years of hard work and sacrifice before finding a place to grow their crafts.
“We both were trying to figure out how to make living in town … both were working numerous jobs,” Grasso said.
Grasso was working as a baker and an outdoor enthusiast at Vertical Grip Climbing Gym and Backdoor Sports. Anderson worked as the studio manager at Ceramic Design Group, as well as other side jobs in restaurants and landscaping.
In 2000, Grasso began his career in the countertop business. He also began his entirely self-taught pursuit of kiln-formed glasswork. He set up his first kiln in a rental apartment.
“We just set it up on bricks in this rental on the carpet, then we got in trouble because we melted the carpet.” Anderson said. “He dropped a plug; otherwise, it would have been fine. We lost our deposit on that one.”
They bought their first studio in 2004.
“We always had things we were working on that are so not appropriate in a regular house,” Anderson explained.
And that was the beginning of Warehome Studios as a home to their businesses, Grasso Glass and Stone and Anderson Ceramic and Design.
Soon thereafter, Grasso discovered his family has a history in stonecutting that traces back to the 16th century.
“I knew that my grandfather was a stonecutter, but I didn’t really learn more of the history until I had my own glass and stone shop,” Grasso said.
When thinking about how his interest in rock climbing relates to his business now, he said, “I’ve always been drawn to the stone, whether it is me over the stone or the stone over me.”
Grasso believes his outdoor adventures were driven by his artist aesthetics.
“When you see a rock or line on the mountain that inspires you, for some reason, I was always drawn to it … and then I’d want to be a part of it,” Grasso said. “And my way of being a part of it would be to climb up it and see the view. And see what kind of perspective you can get from that position, which I think relates a lot to creativity — it’s about perspective.”
On his own perspective, Grasso refers to his creative practice as anti-art in many ways.
In arts school, he said he was pressured to make “stuff.” Instead, Grasso chooses to be patient with his personal projects, preferring not to “force a form” on his finite and semi-precious earthen materials.
“I’ll go a long time without making stuff if I’m not inspired or don’t see any reason for it,” he said.
Looking back on his creative journey, Grasso admits he never followed any kind of plan.
“I just looked to what I was drawn to, and I would follow that,” he said.
That path allowed Grasso and Anderson to expand their studio to offer ceramic classroom space four years ago, using their trades to offer opportunities back to the community. Grasso has long considered doing the same with warm glass classes but still has reservations about the safety of it.
In the meantime, he is patient with inspiration and seeks opportunities for perspective, even if that looks different then many other creative practices.
“There’s a certain amount of introspection and wonder that comes along with the creative process, and it doesn’t always need to materialize into an object or a painting,” Grasso said.
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The Bud Werner Memorial Library is teaming up with libraries across the country to bring a live event to Steamboat Springs, featuring New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter.