Seattle glass artist Roger Nachman in his studio with one of the “raindrops” from his “Joyful Rain” installation that will head up to Harborview Elementary School in Juneau. The artwork is upside down, as an image would be when seen through the lens of a raindrop. Former Seattleite and architect Stuart Gerger connected Roger with the project. (Photo by Diana Brement)
When film director Eran Riklis (The Human Resources Manager) receives his AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival “Reel Difference Award” on opening night, March 12, he will get not just accolades, but an original kiln-cast glass sculpture by local artist Roger Nachman.
From his Fremont studio in Seattle, Roger told me he was a long-time volunteer at the festival, which “always happens on my birthday,” he says. “I treat myself and lavish in [it].”
Last year he decided to be a sponsor, but festival director Pamela Lavitt had a better idea. First she asked him to make mezuzot for the volunteers. Then, when the Reel Difference award was created, she asked him to make a piece for that, too.
The long-time Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue member created a plaster silica mold in the shape of the festival’s hamsa logo [hand-shaped amulet].
“Instead of the eye, I put the film reel with the piece of film coming out the [thumb],” Roger says.
The crystal sculpture has unusual dichroic glass inside, which looks blue, but reflects yellow. Roger also added glow-in-the-dark powders, something only the winners will be able to appreciate.
He puts “a lot of subtle things” in his works that observers often don’t discover for years. “I really strive for…keeping the glass and the art work really alive,” he says.
As a kid, Roger moved a lot — 10 schools in eight states before the age of 14 — but finished high school in Pueblo, Colo. and college in Boulder. He was studying business when he applied for a seminar in religion and the arts in Japan.
“I came back and changed my major” to religious studies, he says.
Learning stained glass while working as a sign painter, he returned to Japan with a small green leather box with pieces of colored glass in it. He stayed in that country for many years, teaching glass art and helping to start a glass program at an arts and crafts school, which was pivotal in launching a Japanese glass movement.
After moving back and forth from Japan to the States, he came to Seattle in 1985. At first he found “I was a little fish in a big pond,” but Seattle also proved easier to be connected to the art world precisely because of the size of the art community.
The day we first spoke, he and his assistant Megan Wittenberg were starting to pack up a fascinating commission piece, “Joyous Rain,” a series of teardrop-shaped hanging glass works for a school in Juneau.
When he’s not in the studio, you can find him playing softball on three different teams, including the championship Temple De Hirsch Sinai team and another over-50 men’s team that earned a national championship.
Roger works exclusively on commission but photos of his work are on his Web site, www.nachmanglass.com (check out the cool insects), where there is also contact information.
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Jewish Day School teacher Nance Adler has secured one of only five spots in a summer program for Jewish educators at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. The curriculum workshop is for novice educators and being in her fourth year, she says she just scooted in under the wire.
“I wanted to study at Pardes for a long time,” says Nance, and a “program specifically for teachers was really appealing.”
She had already planned to be in Jerusalem this summer, and she received a $1,000 scholarship from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s Jewish Education department as well.
She expects the workshop will really augment her masters in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary, which she got through a distance learning graduate program that no longer exists. Before teaching, she worked for 15 years managing medical practices.
Her biggest challenge applying to Pardes was conveying that “you need their help, but look good enough for them to want you,” she says.
Nance and her husband Steve have also been engaged in a dramatic weight-loss effort that they have spoken openly about. Both had lap band surgery — Steve last March and Nance in July — and have lost a combined 300 pounds.
“The two of us now weigh less than when he started,” and they’ve inspired four others to have the surgery.
Doing it together has helped, says Nance, and their communities at Congregation Beth Shalom and the day school “have been particularly supportive.”
Life is not too much different, she says, except Steve exercises every day and “traveling is so much easier.”