Oklahoma City, 1936 - Philadelphia, 2006
After graduating from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1959, Stearns won a scholarship awarded by the Italian government for research in the field of glass. He went to Murano in 1960 and began an apprenticeship with Venini. Having worked for some months alongside master craftsman ‘Checco’ Ongaro, with whom he studied the various glass-making techniques, he began to produce his first pieces. The skilled craftsmen were disconcerted by some of his ideas, which they considered very unconventional. When his scholarship ended, he remained with the firm for some time as a designer, devoting his efforts to new types of light fitting intended for mass production. At the 1962 Venice Biennale, Venini exhibited six items by Stearns, which met with widespread acclaim. At the end of that year, he gave up his work as glass designer and returned to United States to take up research into the use of plastics in art. He also devoted himself to teaching sculpture at Philadelphia College of Art.