Illinois State Wonsook Kim School of Art alum and glass artist Jason Mack ’08 has built what he thinks is a record-setting art project in downtown Champaign. Mack, as previously reported on WCIA.com, spent the first three weekends in December constructing the largest Christmas tree ever made of glass.
Building the 31-foot-tall behemoth has been a communitywide effort, with local business sponsorship and more than 5,000 pounds of recycled glass donated by local residents.
“I wanted to do something that brought some life and people back to the downtown Champaign area,” Mack said. “I also thought it was a great project to bring people together and that we could all have fun creating something together. The community support has been incredible.”
Mack finished the tree December 20. He is applying to the Guinness Book of World Records. Based on his research, the tallest glass Christmas tree in the world was 27.5 feet tall and found on the island of Murano in Italy, he said.
For the last 10 years, Mack has been experimenting with different methods using hot glass to create large on-site sculptures. He had built 12- and 20-feet versions of the tree in Bloomington.
Mack explained the process for creating this year’s tree: “First we sort and crush the glass. Then we shovel it into the 2,300-degree furnace in a 50/50 mix of green and clear glass. The following day we begin with 300 pounds of liquid glass in the furnace. We gather it out of the furnace with steel irons. Then we bring it to the 31-foot-tall spinning steel armature and wrap it up like cotton candy until we have 4,000 pounds of glass on it.”
The tree will stay up through January at 502 North Neil Street. Mack operates a private art studio in Champaign and teaches at Parkland Community College. He plans to use some of the glass from the tree to make ornaments he will sell online.
The Christmas tree is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg for Mack.
“I would like to create the world’s first glass forest as a live performance and an event space for the community. It will also be used to teach kids and adults about recycling and glass art. The glass in the forest would be ‘harvested’ to create other art products that we sell to support the growth of the forest. The majority of container glass used in Champaign County goes to the landfill, so this would also prevent that.”
Those interested in becoming involved in building the glass forest, can email Mack.