Graduate pursuing her passion for glass
Jo Wu is living her life just as she chooses -- making art and scientific apparatus from glass.
"I love everything about working with glass," said Wu, a 2011 Salem Community College grad who double-majored in scientific glass and glass art. Wu's decision to attend SCC came after being involved in a nearly-fatal car accident, an incident that she says changed her life.
"When I landed on the highway, all I cared about was that my hands were alright and that my vision was the same," said Wu, who earned a degree in economics from Wesleyan University. "I realized in that instant that life is far too short to spend doing anything other than what you absolutely love."
Her discovering SCC was almost by accident as well. As she was just starting out in glass, a friend who had retired from the field of scientific glassblowing gave her a few boxes of scrap materials to work with. Among the items, she found a brochure for SCC's International Flameworking Conference (IFC). After attending the IFC in 2008, Wu enrolled at SCC in fall 2009.
"The IFC and the unique education offered by the Scientific Glass Technology program, in addition to the opportunity of blowing glass under Paul Stankard, are the basis of my decision to attend SCC," Wu said. "I had reached a point of blowing glass on my own and working other jobs that I just wanted to give myself a chance to see where an education in glass would take me. I am so glad that I did!"
Wu became involved with the medium at Glassroots, a nonprofit organization that teaches glassblowing to underserved youth, in Newark, N.J.
"When I graduated from Wesleyan University, I returned to volunteer at Glassroots and began blowing glass in the evenings at my home studio in Wayne, N.J.," she said. "In 2009, I was added to the Glassroots staff as a glassblowing instructor, teaching both flameworking and hot glass."
Wu said she was grateful for the chance to work in SCC's new Samuel H. Jones Glass Education Center in Alloway and liked the open layout in the Paul J. Stankard Studio & Lab.
"For me, that epitomizes Salem's unique focus on flameworking in glass art, and the merging of the different glass studios [flameworking, hot, cold and kiln]," Wu said. "In this way, I know that Salem provides an extremely well-rounded glass education."
She said that Scientific Glass Technology Instructional Chair Dennis Briening has inspired her, helping to develop hand skills and good shop habits. Wu also expressed thanks for the support from scientific glass technologists Joseph Barker and Barry Lafler.
"Most importantly, I am extremely grateful to Paul Stankard for helping me examine and nurture my artistic interests and for encouraging me so much along the way," she said about the SCC Distinguished Alumnus and internationally respected artist who teaches at his alma mater.
Wu's SCC education was made possible in part by a scholarship from The Robert Minkoff Foundation. Mr. Minkoff, a Washington, D.C.- area businessman and philanthropist, has established a scholarship for a full-time glass art student achieving at least a 3.0 GPA each semester. Wu is the first recipient of this scholarship.
"It is an incredible blessing," Wu said. "Before receiving the scholarship, I felt as though I had to choose between developing my technical skills or focusing on artistic growth and exploration. Winning the scholarship alleviated the pressure to cram the scientific and art courses into a year.
"I want to take the most that is possible from the unique studio opportunities at Salem Community College and build upon it in the future," she said. "My SCC education has helped me develop my skill set and vocabulary, and incubate my artistic vision and repertoire. I am excited to see where it goes."
Wu's SCC education has taken her far, halfway around the globe, in fact. She has accepted a position as a scientific glassblower at The Australian National University (ANU).
Dan Bansner, master glassblower at the ANU Research School of Chemistry and SCC scientific glass technology alumnus, hired Wu after a five-month selection process which included interviews and work on glass projects.
"She went above and beyond," said Bansner, saying Wu completed additional projects and showed a genuine interest, asking questions about the glass apparatus and their functions. "The committee and I were also impressed with her knowledge of chemistry as it relates to glassblowing."
"This is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance my career and experience another culture," said Wu. "As a direct result of my education, I can live the life I dreamed for myself.
"I am so excited to begin my career as a scientific glassblower in Canberra, Australia!