Glass artist Eric Meek of the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) was on hand at Watkins Glen International on Monday to unveil the new 2013 trophy he designed that will be awarded to the winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen next month.
According to Mr. Meek and WGI, this year’s trophy is the second incarnation of the collaboration between the track and the area’s premiere glass museum to create a unique race prize that would “highlight the region.”
Corning has been making glass for over 100 years, said Meek at the unveiling and was pleased to be asked to create the trophy because it was a unique opportunity to showcase the importance of glass to the region. When the museum worked with WGI on what the trophy would look like, the two entities sought a design that would reflect a creation clearly made out of glass and that would also unite the physical area of the Glen with the historic racetrack.
Standing about two feet tall and approximately three inches or so in diameter, the form of the trophy is a glass cylinder that has been narrowed at the center. Meek said he envisioned the winner grasping the trophy at the center and hoisting it aloft in victory.
Inside the clear exterior of the trophy is a basic outline of the track created out of blue glass that runs all the way down through the middle of the cylinder. The blue glass, Meek said, was created using copper and cobalt to recreate the color of the characteristic blue Armco barriers that line many portions of the track.
The outline is most clearly visible on the top, and Meek said he envisioned the winner having an “intimate” moment with the piece when he or she discovered the design on top and realized it represented the pathway just taken to victory.
The trophy sits on a base that is a glen stone, “native to the area” — the “glen” is the natural gorge that runs through the village of Watkins Glen and gives it its name. “By accident,” Meek said, the blue glass center with the clear glass outside creates an image reminiscent of the many waterfalls in the region. On the glen stone base are engraved the words, “NASCAR at The Glen / Race Winner 2013.”
Meek said the trophy is very similar to the 2012 prize awarded to Marco Ambrose at the Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen, but the 2013 version is larger.
The process of creating the trophy took “20 years and 2 hours,” said Meek — referring to the fact that years of glassmaking training are required to make a piece like this, but the actual glassworking of a designed piece may take mere hours in the hands of a skilled and trained artist. This piece went through about 20 iterations, he said, with eight of them being made and only two of them passing his final inspection for quality.
Meek said the piece took two to three hours of hot work, using a five-foot pole and a 2000-degree furnace. Large chunks of glass were sawed off at either end, and the piece took another couple of hours to polish. The track outline was created using a mold and pouring glass into it, then adding the clear glass casing to that, much like one would do in candle-making.
Mr. Meek designed and made the trophy himself with the help of two assistants, one of whom hails from Watkins Glen.
Meek is the Hot Glass Show Supervisor at the CMOG where he oversees 20-25 glassmakers as well as CMOG glass shows on three cruise ships and two portable studios that put on glass shows around the world. In October, he said CMOG will be showcasing glassmaking in the courtyard of the Louvre in Paris as guests of the Museum of Decorative Arts.
According to CMOG, Mr. Meek has been a full-time gaffer at the Museum since 2005, having first graduated from Bowling Green State University, and studying glassblowing at The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass and the production studio at the Henry Ford Museum. CMOG’s website states that “Meeks received his M.F.A. from Kent State University and teaches workshops internationally. His artwork is exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. When working with glass, Eric likes to draw upon tradition and fine craftsmanship to realize modern, elegant forms.”
About the trophy, Mr. Meek said he likes the “clean form” of it. It was made “by my own hands,” he said. The trophy is “very unique and very special,” and he is “very proud of it.”
The Cheez-It 355 at The Glen takes place August 8-11.
The Corning Museum of Glass is located in Corning, NY, about 20 miles South of Watkins Glen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Connie Ann Kirk (Ph.D.) is the author of several books and is currently working on new projects about racers and historic motor racing with an Irish historic racer. Her motor sports blog is “Motor Sport Muse.”