Jiri Harcuba
Photo: Andy Owen


Thanks to everyone who contacted me with confidence, with the wish to continue the work of Jirí Harcuba, and to go on with his School of Dominik Biemann. It is a difficult task. However, I will do my best not to bring to the end the efforts to support the interest in engraved glass and to approach it to people after the demise of this valued man.
The former School of Dominik Biemann will continue in memory of its founder under my leadership and under the name The School of Jiri Harcuba. The organization of the first year, which will be held in September 2014, will take place in The Center of Glass Art in Sázava. It will follow the Symposium of Engraved Glass traditionally held in Kamenický Senov (program of the Symposium:

Posted 20 March 2014

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In 1997, when the 200th birthday of Dominik Biemann was celebrated, Jirí Harcuba founded Dominik Biemann Society. Its main aim was to promote the mutual interest of glass engraving, to stimulate a high regard for glass engraving and to deepen the knowledge and respect for this demanding art.
Later, in 2001, Harcuba founded the Dominik Biemann school. The first workshop took place in Harrachov, where both Biemann and Harcuba were born.
The school was founded as a tribute to Dominik Biemann, our greatest engraver of the first half of the 19th Century. Jirí Harcuba, one of the leading engravers of today, is rightly regarded as the direct successor of the Dominik Biemann´s reference. None of the Czech engravers who dealt with portrait engraving, reached such a degree of expressiveness and the ability to go deeply into the psyche of the model as Jirí Harcuba did. Dominik Biemann (1800-1857) at his time overshadowed all contemporaries by his extraordinary artistic talent and the craftsmanship of his portrait engravings. While his contemporaries worked after coin, medal and graphic patterns, he created mostly after live models. Biemann settled in Prague during the summer season and since 1825 he worked in Frantiskovy Lázne (Franzensbad), where among other things he portrayed wealthy guests. He was an excellent portrait-engraver. The world's largest museum collections boast about his portrait engravings.

This first Dominik Biemann's workshop was followed by many others, organized for schools and other institutions around the world. It was opened for international participants, both experienced engravers and complete beginners. With this Jirí demonstrated that „glass engraving is the easiest technique, which needs no previous skills and experience.“ He wanted the participants to search for their creative voice, not to be oppressed by expectations.
Jirí encouraged „Zen drawing“- intuitive drawing, sometimes with closed eyes. This way Harcuba taught how to forget about our limits and draw spontaneously. „Be like children“ he told his students, „best like pre-school children, before the school education makes them conform“. His favorite example was an engraving by a three-years-old girl Sophia, made on a sheet of glass. She called it „The little Cow in the Strawberries“, still having the confidence we later lose in life.
The participants´ drawings were engraved on sheets of glass and after that they were taught how to use them as printing plates either by rubbing the colour into the depression with a finger or carrying it over onto the smooth surface with a roller. Then paper was placed on top and rubbed with either the hand, finger, wooden spatula or printing press. After the paper was pulled off, the engraving appeared in mirror image… this changed the appearance of the finished piece from a „scratched piece of glass“ to a colorful print (and when he liked it this way, Jirí just let the rest of the colour dry in the engraving). There were often unpredictable shapes and colorful effects born this way… Jirí taught one to observe it and to accept it with an open mind, not as a mistake, but as a possibility.

The Dominik Biemann School was a meeting of people at the engraving lathe; it was about dialogue, searching, trying, playing.
Without Jirí Harcuba, the School can never be the same, but I´m sure we need to continue to carry the joy Jirí brought to this world.

Born into a family with a glassmaking tradition, Jirí Harcuba (1928-2013) started his life with glass as a child. He helped his father in the cutting shop, spending his free time applying polishing compounds on his polishing wheels with a rag. When he was thirteen years old, his father bought him a pedal-driven lathe from an old engraver. “When you learn to engrave, you will become a better cutter.“ He later became an apprentice glass engraver in The Harrach Glass Factory.
In 1945 he went to Nový Bor to study at the Specialized School of Glassmaking, where he was influenced by Stanislav Libenský. Then he studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague in Professor Stipl´s department, where he made his first portrait engravings. Harcuba taught at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague for 10 years (1961 – 1971) until he was jailed (for four months) as a political prisoner for making „counter-revolutionary“ medals for the Czech musicians in Chicago. After that he started to work as an independent artist and from 1991 to 1994 he was the first democratically elected rector of the Academy in Prague. In 1997 he started the teaching program at the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass (NY).

Harcuba experimented with glass engraving technique, moving it in new directions. At first, he made zoomorphic and geometric engravings inspired by folk art and in the 1960th he made some deeply carved objects. The expressive direction of his work is represented for example by the triptych “Hunt” (1971). From the early 1970th Jirí Harcuba engraved numerous portrait glass plaques of personalities from the field of culture. He concentrated mostly on expressing nature and character rather than the strictly physical characteristics of the person. He wanted to capture the personality, to give the engraving an expression: „Every genuine creation is poetry. We do not create what we see, but rather what we know and what we think and feel.” He was also careful not to overwork what he was doing - but to stop at the right moment. When he considered the piece he was working on was becoming boring, he sometimes attacked the almost finished work by fresh and dominant cut or texture. „To engrave means leaving traces of the wheel, to listen to the speech of wheels, to leave their own marks. It´s not about perfection. Sketches or unfinished engravings are usually better.“ Harcuba also experimented with other techniques, such as hot forming of an engraved piece, engraved fused glass sheets, graal, vitreography and many more.
Harcuba was a very important medallist – he started making medals in 1964. He created a very new way of making medals - by casting his glass engravings. He also created the Czech five-crown coin used since 1993. His last design for a coin was accepted by The Czech National Bank in June 2013.

Among the many awards Jirí Harcuba received during his life were The J. Sanford Saltur Award, USA (1988), The Gold Award, Philadelphia (1992), The "Rakow Comission", Corning, USA (1995), The Medal of Franz Kafka – award, Prague (1998), The Lifetime Achievement Award - Urban Glass NY, USA (2006), the Lifetime Achievement Award GAS, Pittsburg (2007).
Jirí Harcuba taught glass engraving internationally - in the UK, the USA, Japan, Germany: he wanted glass engraving to survive, to get people interested in it. Jirí Harcuba inspired, helped. He didn´t teach how to set the wheel to glass exactly, but how to search in ourselves, to accept what´s coming, to accept the unpredictable, to see the beauty in it. Engraving under his leadership was not only exact, traditional, or conservative technique. It was a meditation . . . to find and express ourselves. Jirí used to say that there is no bad art. It is just about whether we are able to enter the creator´s world or not...
School of Jiri Harcuba in the Frantisek Glassworks,
Sázava, the Czech Republic, September 22-24, 2014
The program of The School of Jirí Harcuba starts by moving participants of the International Engraving Symposium in Kamenický Senov by buses to Sázava, where it will be possible to participate in the guided tour in The Center of Glass Art and The Exhibition of IGS. There will be an opening of The Exhibition of Jirí Harcuba and then a lecture about his work. Jirí Harcuba's School itself starts on Monday morning. The participants will be able to participate in it the whole 3 days, only a selected day, or just to come and create a print or engraved slide.
In any case, you need to sign in advance on the e -mail address:
By Pavlina Cambalova

Contacts: Ways of Glass
The Center of Glass Art, Glassworks Frantisek, Sazava
Na Kácku 218
CZ-28506 Sázava
+420 728 856 044
Price: to make The School of Jirí Harcuba available, we set the basic price to 20 EUR / 500 CZK per day including all materials. However, the costs will be higher and, in addition, we intend to create a printed catalog on the occasion of the first-year of the School, we gratefully appreciate any additional voluntary contributions.
With regard to the number of working places, the number of participants is limited to 15 people per 1 day
Contact e-mail:
MANY THANKS to Glassworks Frantisek in Sazava (mainly to Frantisek Janák), supporter of the event!

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