West Virginia's Division of Culture and History will unveil a new permanent exhibit, "The Cameo Glass Artistry of Kelsey Murphy," in the North Connections Room of the West Virginia State Museum. An opening reception will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 27. The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public.
Murphy is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with more than 30 years of experience in graphic design. In 1982, she and Robert Bomkamp, an aerospace development machinist, began working together at Glass Expectations in Cincinnati, a flat-glass etching company. Two years later they were contracted to design and create three-dimensional, compound curved vessels by Pilgrim Glass in Ceredo. This began a long-standing love affair with cameo glass. In 1987 they moved their equipment to Ceredo and officially became part of Pilgrim Glass.
Bomkamp designed equipment and carving procedures and Murphy designed the art and masking procedures, while the glass company worked on the glass chemistry. After five years of a 95 percent breakage rate, the most extravagant cameo glass ever made emerged under the signature "Kelsey/Pilgrim." Until Murphy developed her unique methods, only five layers of cameo glass had ever been successfully cased and carved. She and Pilgrim Glass Union glass blowers pushed that number to 12.
After Pilgrim Glass closed in 2001, Murphy and Bomkamp continued to work with the remaining blanks (uncut vessels) at their home and workshop, "Studios of Heaven," in East Lynn. Each piece of cameo glass made there is stamped "Made in Heaven."
The collection of glass on display represents work by Murphy as well as Bomkamp and apprentice Christina Carpenter. The pieces were made from 1989 to 2013. The 55-piece collection was donated to the West Virginia State Museum by philanthropists and art patrons.
For information about the exhibit, contact Charles Morris, director of museums for the division, at 304-558-0220.