Friday, December 14, 2012

Whitworth art, political science alum runs world-renowned glass studio


Thirty-one years ago, Whitworth alumnus Pete Hunner, ’76, and his wife, Maibritt Jonsson, established Baltic Sea Glass on the Danish island of Bornholm. Since then, their studio has flourished, hosting between 80,000 and 100,000 visitors annually.

Hunner and Jonsson's company is based in the design and production of functional tabletop glassware, and they create unique works for gallery and museum exhibitions throughout the world. Their glass sculptures have achieved international acclaim and were featured in the personal collection of the late Queen Ingrid of Denmark.

Visiting Baltic Sea Glass studio is an interactive experience. Jonsson and Hunner not only display their glasswork; they create it in front of visitors, as well.

“We hope that visitors enjoy our work with the hot glass, including the passion that we have for our work,” says Hunner. “We hope they buy something to take home with them, giving us the opportunity to further develop our work.”

After graduating from Whitworth with degrees in art and political science, Hunner studied ceramics and glass at Copenhagen’s School of Applied Arts, where he met his wife. He worked at a glass studio as a summer job, and he says that this position was the point at which he knew where he was going with his life. In 1997, he and Jonsson were in the founding group of Bornholm’s Glass and Ceramic School. Today this school is a part of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design.

During his time at Whitworth, Hunner studied under and was mentored by Pauline Haas, who is now an associate professor emeritus of art.

“Pauline taught me to see!” says Hunner. “She taught me to look at the world with my eyes, my heart and my hands.”

Hunner remains close to his mentor, having flown back to Spokane to visit her just last month.

“She will soon be 90 years old,” Hunner says. Yet “visiting Pauline was like seeing a young woman with an amazing passion for life, including the desire – no, the compelling need – to express and share what she sees through her drawing and painting. Her body is a bit older than when I finished my studies at Whitworth in 1976, but her eyes still have the same vibrant glow.”

Haas retired in 1986 after devoting 20 years to the Whitworth art department.

In 2003, the couple wrote and published Jonsson & Hunner: Artisans of Light through Bornholm’s Kunstmuseum. The same year, Hunner gave a presentation at Whitworth on his and his wife’s glasswork. The book, though out of print, is available for checkout in Whitworth’s Cowles Memorial Library.

To learn more about the Baltic Sea Glass studio, visit www.balticseaglass.com.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.