Student Stories: Jason Mack

Student Stories: Jason Mack


Major: Art

When he was 17 years old, Jason Mack took a glass bead-making class with his mother that influenced the direction of his career. 

“When working with glass, it feels like you are working with a living organism because of the way it moves and reacts to your movements. There is no other material like it,” he said.  

Mack selected College of DuPage because of its closeness to home and affordable tuition. 

“COD also has a very good Art program run by a diverse group of top-notch teachers,” said Mack, who earned an Associate in Fine Arts – Art degree. “It was the first step toward obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University’s sculpture program, which was the foundation of building my own glass studio and business.” 

He currently lives in Champaign, where he has developed a line of hand-blown glass lighting for commercial and residential applications. He also has devised ways to create large-scale glass sculptures utilizing a mobile glass furnace. 

“The sculptures are built on-site as a type of performance,” he said. “It’s a great way to bring the process outside of the studio and give people a unique and memorable experience.”

Mack is innovating new processes for melting and re-using recycled bottle glass to create a line of architectural products for residential and commercial spaces. For example, he finished a commission for Cornell University, a cast glass block wall for its new technology building. The wall eventually will incorporate display screens to present a block chain program created by a group of Ph.D. students.

He also raised funds for a new project that involves building an entire glass forest with a glass river winding through it. The project will feature all recycled glass donated by Champaign, the community in which it will reside.

“This is a project I have been developing for over 10 years and one that I am most excited about,” he said. “It will incorporate all of the methods and concepts I have been exploring since my first years at COD.”

In 2020, he started with building the world’s largest glass Christmas tree. Made from steel and recycled glass, the tree measured 31 feet in height with a circumference of 52 feet at the base and weighing in at approximately two tons. Mack’s goal was to beat the current world record held by a 27.5-foot glass tree in Italy.

He said building the sculpture on-site provided a great way to bring his work out of the studio and contribute to the life of the community. 

“I like breaking the mold of glassblowers working and laboring over a piece of art in a studio and then bringing the finished project to the world,” he said. “I’m not as interested in selling objects as I am in projects that involve the community and bring people together.”

Mack used glass collected from on-site donations during the construction. Melted at a temperature of 2,300 degrees in his mobile glass furnace, the liquefied result was poured onto a spinning, metal frame to form the tree’s branches and needles.

“The response from the community was great,” he said. “They were in awe. I’m the only person in the world doing anything like this—driving around with a 2,000-degree furnace behind my truck and building a record-setting tree from recycled glass.”

While using recycled glass helps to fulfill a need in the community to dispose of used items, Mack said he also enjoys the idea of the history of his material.

“I like materials that are honest, not fabricated,” he said. “We might get in a dirty jar with baby food or pasta sauce; each item used for a utilitarian purpose then sat in someone’s home till they brought to the site. Every bottle has a story behind it, which becomes a part of the work. People love watching the work take shape and knowing they had a part in it.”

Mack, who currently teaches classes in the Urbana-Champaign area, is pleased that he turned to COD and its Art program.

“College of DuPage is fantastic place to begin your art career,” he said. “I always recommend students try out as many different mediums and processes as possible. You never know what might click and stick with you the rest of your life.”

More about the Art program