Born: Lewisburg, Tennessee
Michael Taylor is an American ceramicist and glass blower born in Lewisburg, Tennessee. He received his bachelors degree from Middle Tennessee University in 1966 and his masters degree in sculpture and ceramics from East Tennessee University. It was here that he received a summer scholarship to Penland School of Crafts. There he was first exposed to glass as an artist's medium. He returned to Penland in 1968 and, with the encouragement of glass artist Fritz Dreisbach, began to work with glass. That summer he studied glass at the University of Utah under University of California-Berkeley instructor Marvin Lipofsky. In the fall Taylor returned to Tusculum College in Greenville, Tennessee, where he was working as a part-time art instructor, to take a full-time teaching position.
In 1970 Taylor attended the Toledo Museum School's Glass Workshop, where he met a number of the artists involved in the Studio Glass Movement, including Dominick Labino, Harvey Littleton, Harvey Leafgreen, among others. Returning to Tusculum College, Taylor won a Louis Comfort Tiffany grant to work with Harvey Littleton at Littleton's studio in Verona, Wisconsin. In 1977, while serving as the chair of the art department at Peabody College, Taylor returned to graduate school at East Tennessee State University, where he was awarded an M.F.A. in sculpture.
Taylor accepted his first teaching position in 1968 at Tusculum College, where he built a glass facility in 1971. He left Tusculum in 1972 for a job as an associate professor of art at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. In addition to his duties at Peabody, Taylor lectured at Penland and taught during the summer at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and Naples Mills School of Arts and Crafts in Naples, New York. He also found time to begin glass programs at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and Peters Valley Craft Center near Layton, New Jersey. From 1979–80 Taylor was an associate professor of art at the College of Idaho. During this time, he also lectured and presented workshops at California State University at Chico and the University of California campuses at Davis and San Luis Obispo. He taught at Kent State University in Ohio in the summer. In 1981 he was hired by the Rochester Institute of Technology to head its glass program, a position that he held for 19 years. In 1988 he took time out to teach at the Tokyo Glass Art Institute in Japan, and in 1991–1994 he served with the United States Department of Information Services as a specialist to the glass community in Monterrey, Mexico. In 1998 he lectured in Seoul, Korea at Namseoul University. In 2000 he retired from Rochester Institute of Technology. From 2005 to 2013, he was an invited professor at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in Portugal. In addition, Taylor writes poetry and texts about physics and his work in cold-worked glass. He argues that his work transcends the decorative arts because of its “elevated subject matter and process.” He discusses the inclusion of color in his works that induces viewers to interact with his sculptures in the round, as with his Synoptic Torsion Series, that was inspired by his work in Sweden, made possible by Fulbright and Scandinavian grants.
He cuts, laminates and polishes quarter- and half-inch machine-made glass, transforming flat sheets into sculptural forms that reference vessels and the history of glass and ceramics. His earlier, one-color glass sculptures, such as Jaimon Vessel (1984), referenced ancient Japanese ceramics dating from 10,000 – 300 BCE. Taylor’s use of precision, symmetry and the color blue brought his vessel into the 20th century with metaphoric inferences. Synoptic Torsion 21 (1991) is far more complex, representing Taylor’s later incorporation of multiple colors, dynamic planes, and larger scale.
In addition, Taylor writes poetry and texts about physics and his work in cold-worked glass. He argues that his work transcends the decorative arts because of its “elevated subject matter and process.” He discusses the inclusion of color in his works that induces viewers to interact with his sculptures in the round, as with his Synoptic TorsionSeries, that was inspired by his work in Sweden, made possible by Fulbright and Scandinavian grants.