Josh Simpson Contemporary Glass

Spaceship and Cane detail
Spaceship and Cane detail

The Corning Museum of Glass Megaplanet Story

In April 2005 I was invited to give a series of lectures at the Corning Museum of Glass. At one of the lectures I mentioned that I hoped to make a 100 lb. Megaplanet someday – clearly I was suffering from a bad case of testosterone poisoning. After hearing this, Director David Whitehouse and Curator Tina Oldknow commissioned a 100 lb. Planet for their collection.

If I had known what technical (and human factor) hurdles I would have to overcome I might have thought longer than the 2 seconds it took me to accept the commission. New electrical service to the studio, a special heavy-duty blowpipe and giant-sized wood shaping blocks were all required. 

I could never make these pieces without the dedicated help of my crew. Over the course of 9 months we made 15 attempts with four successes. I wanted Tina Oldknow to have several Planets to choose from for the collection before the exhibit opened.

Worlds Within: The Evolution of the Paperweight opened November 16, 2006. I loved Tina’s idea to show some of the more spectacular failures as part of this exhibit – including the Megaworld that had exploded and was just a pile of shards when I opened the cooling oven two and a half months later. 

I was honored to be asked to create the 1000th paperweight for the Corning collection. I have spent many hours at the Museum and in the Rakow Library since I started making glass but it was only in my wildest imagination that I would be involved in a commission like this. 

Josh Simpson’s glass art reflects his informed interest in the natural world, outer
space, ecology, and technology. …As Simpson developed and refined his galaxy of glass “Planets,” they became increasingly larger. Soon, Simpson was making “Megaworlds” that, 10 years ago, weighed up to 30 pounds. Today, using custom-made equipment and the assistance of a practiced team of glassblowers, Simpson’s “Megaworlds” weigh up to 100 pounds. The impressive scale of these technically challenging objects takes Simpson’s complex imagery of teeming oceans and vast plateaus beyond the idea of the paperweight into the realm of large-scale sculpture.

Tina Oldknow
Curator of Modern Glass
Corning Museum of Glass
Corning, NY

PBS filmed a documentary on the making of Corning’s 100 lb. Megaplanet. Defying Gravity premiered in December of 2006.   
View Josh and crew during their many attempts over the 14 month adventure!