Meet the Chair

Meet Clifford Rainey

My education really began at age 19 when I left home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for Vestmannjar, Iceland, to crew on a trawler fishing the North Atlantic Ocean for cod and herring.

I wanted to fulfill a dream of studying art and I needed money to do it. It was the year the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, as well as when I was accepted into the foundation department of Hornsey College of Art in London.

Looking back, my fondest memories are from those formative art school years. I still remember the challenging class projects, the cultural diversity of my fellow students, the inspiring tutors, the field trips to draw at the British Museum; the exposure to art history, philosophy, sociology, great literature, ballet, music, film, and the passionate debates with my young contemporaries over diverse matters, including how best to change the world.

I distinctly remember the amazing feeling of my brain getting bigger. At first I studied drawing, painting, and printmaking, yet I was most passionate about sculpture, as my favorite artists were Constantin Brancusi and Henry Moore. It was a time of experimentation and it was then, through the process of casting various substances, I discovered the magic of glass.

I fulfilled my dream and graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 1973, the same year Picasso died.

Today my life experiences and those as a practicing artist inform how I teach and develop the curriculum for CCA’s Glass Program. I have lived an interesting and rewarding life as an artist and citizen of the world and believe in passing on knowledge to those who seek it.

My personal working methodology involves developing an idea or concept, followed by intense research, preparatory drawing, planning, and finally, execution. Thinking through making is an important and integral element of my process; I always allow an idea to develop and change, keeping the resulting form alive and vibrant.

After many years I have acquired the skill and dexterity to craft my ideas with expertise. This expertise gives me the freedom to realize works I’ve created with my own hands and layered with content. My art gives visual form to meaning. I endeavor to infuse this simple practice into course projects.

History & Tradition

Founded in 1967 by Marvin Lipofsky, the studio Glass Program at California College of Arts and Crafts was one of the first in the United States. Forty years later, professors and graduates from CCA’s Glass Program continue to make the Bay Area a national center for the studio glass arts.


The Glass Program has an unparalleled reputation as a rigorous environment in which to study glass in a fine art context. Thanks to our ambitious, accomplished students and alumni, we are listed annually among the top college-level glass programs in the nation. Craft and art are two fields that have much in common.

In an era when fine art schools embrace conceptual, multimedia courses that allow artists to freely migrate from one material to another, CCA’s program strives to balance these diverse fields into a vibrant visual discussion.

The Glass curriculum challenges students to put knowledge of craft to the service of art and engages an ongoing discourse about art and its relationship to the contemporary world. Our program encourages multimedia, interdisciplinary practice. The curriculum embraces intense research, theoretical thinking, studio practice, and technical competency. Individual projects are designed to cultivate habits of mind as well as craft.


For the majority of artists, drawing is an integral element in art making. It is the instant mark from mind to hand. It is the visual creation of an idea, the beginning of what is to come. Drawing allows one to think and develop an idea visually. All glass courses rely on some form of ‘drawing’ to communicate their ideas to class during the critique process to spark discussion and critical dialogue.


The study of glass can be a difficult decision for a prospective student of art as it can take many years to develop the dexterity and intimacy to realize ones ideas in this fragile transparent material. Art students who embrace glass as a material for art making are the custodians of a rich history and tradition.

Our curriculum honors the traditions of the past while at the same time championing contemporary conceptual questioning. Our students strive to be at the cutting edge of contemporary art practice in an area where practice and theory take equal precedence.

We ask our students to be scholarly, open to learning, to question, to gain knowledge through research. I personally believe our students should be well read, informed, have experienced opinions on diverse subject matter and be able to debate these experiences and opinions in class. They should have a spirit of inquiry, be ethical, self–motivated, and committed.

We encourage them to be engaged citizens, to be politically and socially involved with their communities, their ecological planet, and their world’s rich multiculturalism. It is hugely advantageous to be talented.

For the maker, virtuosity can be seductive but is not enough for the student of glass to become a skilled craftsperson. We assist our students to develop an intelligent voice that can interlace meaning into their work by promoting a forum for debate. They should expect their teachers to agitate and unbalance their comfort zone to stimulate new paradigms of thought and imagination.

As artists, they have a responsibility to search out conflicting opinions and be able to analyze the differences then fold any discoveries into their working vocabulary.


Each member of our diverse faculty is a practicing artist who dedicates time to teach. All exhibit nationally; many are renowned internationally and have their work in the collections of major museums. All faculty believe that teaching matters and are passionate about glass as a material for art making.

Today we are blessed with a long history of art and philosophy. But this can be a burdensome weight to the young, inquisitive mind.

The skilled tutor must have the ability to bring to life any supporting subject matter that will enhance the visual creative experience.

Glass faculty members are charged with creating a positive working environment to allow concentration and understanding. Our faculty teaches by example. We endeavor to be approachable, encouraging, inspiring, helpful, and attentive in class.

Our visiting artist program generates opportunities for feedback from a wide degree of differing opinions, skills, and techniques.

Graduation & Beyond

CCA’s Glass Program intends for its students to graduate with an entrepreneurial spirit and the cognitive and motor skills to enable them to make the transition from college to a professional working environment and beyond.

Our graduates are accomplished in their field, adept at manifesting their ideas physically, knowledgeable about historic and contemporary art issues, and are catalyzed toward social change.

During their tenure at CCA students acquire a broad base of technical skills and can articulate and communicate their ideas verbally and in writing. They gain the capacity to self-critique and evaluate their artwork.

Each has fashioned an individual voice and the potential and self-confidence to succeed.

Most importantly, students learn how to reason and question their way through college. Art school, like life, is a journey of self-discovery, with a humble beginning and an enriched end.