…the theme of the current show at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery that is showing my work through March 17.
The inquiry: What is the inspiration for your glass art?
The answer: JAZZ is for the Ears / My JAZZ in Glass is for the eyes.
To the 60 or so art lovers who wandered over to view my work and listen to my answer, I explained that my vintage designs at Blenko in the 50s and 60s were created in the same era that Be-bop jazz was at it’s height of popularity. The 1950s era for art and design is popular now as the “mid to mod” era. Critics and collectors of my work have noted that jazz and my glass are unique to mid century art and abstract to look at just as jazz in music is to listen to.
I pointed to the tall yellow piece “Take Five,” my homage to Dave Brubeck’s very popular recording (written by Paul Desmond, the band’s sax player). When I asked the assembled group to raise their hand if they knew the song, the response was nearly unanimous.
Non-literal is the style in both jazz and Jazz in Glass. No “Moonlight and Roses” but an abstract expression of glass forms, just like jazz music is abstract expression.
Both jazz and art glass creations work with color and rhythm. Both involve improvisation. Blowing glass is a dance full of quick aesthetic decisions and timing. Jazz in music is saved forever on disks, the web and in the cloud. My art glass creations are also saved, and arranged on shelves and tables filtering light and distributing brilliant colors.
In the photo (above) of my exhibit at the gallery, the jazz music that inspired the pieces viewed from left to right are: “Ruby My Dear”, “Take Five”, “Happy Go Lucky”, “Night in Tunisia”, “Green Dolphin Street”, and “Bluesette”.
Just about every great jazz artist played these songs and countless recordings of them can be heard in a simple Google search.
“How do you get such brilliant colors in glass?” was a welcome inquiry.
The Jazz in Glass pieces are all exceptionally rich in color for several reasons: First, the basic form is blown in fine hand-carved, water-soaked cherry wood molds. The molds are seasoned with a charcoal layer that absorbs the water and forms steam for the glass to ride on. This results in a brilliant surface that is more optically pure than glass blown in conventional metal molds that are coated with burnt cork.
The colors are from glass colorant rods that are saturated with metal oxides. These rods at an inch in diameter and 16 inches long are like giant crayons.
The best color rods used in my new designs are from Germany and compounded in proprietary formulas. For example, "Ruby My Dear" and "Night in Tunisia" achieve their colors from small amounts of pure gold in the crayon like rods. The "Take Five" has an impressive amount of the metal cadmium as its colorant. Nickel is the primary metal for the gray for "Happy Go Lucky." Chromium is one of the metals that produce the green of "Green Dolphin Street," and of course, the metal, cobalt, renders the blue of "Bluesette."
The colors of all six pieces are applied over fine crystal.
The new Rollatini, shown above, is a cocktail mixer with a jigger-measuring stopper and is reminiscent of my Blenko “Jigger Decanter” made circa 1960 (numbered 6027 on page 28 of Leslie Pena’s BLENKO CATALOGS THEN AND NOW book by Schiffer Publishing).
The Rollatini bottle with a jigger top is a fun homage to yet another art, cinema, and the famous line when Sean Connery’s 007 James Bond instructs his bartender to “Shake, don’t stir” his martini. For the Rollatini, my directive is “Roll, don’t shake!”
People at the gallery opening “dug” the story and had fun twirling the Rollatini piece and recommending in what colors they would like to see it blown. It will be made in the sapphire blue of the Bombay Gin bottle (as shown above) and will also be available in emerald green and honey amber. (The Rollatini design has a design patent in the works).
While I have developed new designs with four of the many superb glass studios in the San Francisco area, the Jazz in Glass pieces on exhibit at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery are made exclusively at Effetto Glassworks by Guido Gerlitz and Mark Andrew. It has taken over a year to develop and refine the Jazz in Glass group.
Effetto has a large melting tank and exceptionally large annealing ovens not available in most studio glassmakers.
The JIG pieces demand the same expert skills as the “Big Ass” pieces I pioneered at Blenko 63 years ago. Melting pots at Blenko held five to ten times the molten glass of most studio glassmakers. Recent information from Blenko is that they no longer have the capacity to make large pieces like the “Big Ass” pieces I created there in the 1950’s, so we were lucky to find the Effetto Glassworks.
My Blenko designs from over 60 years ago are well covered in many books and articles as well as in the most recent book MID CENTURY MODERN GLASS IN AMERICA (Schiffer Publishing). The author and glass authority Dean Six is the force behind the Museum of Glass in Weston, West Virginia and coincidentally, as of May of last year, Mr. Six is the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Blenko Glass Company.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dean at the Portland Rain of Glass annual conference last May where he was the featured speaker. I am grateful for the coverage of my work in his book and kudos to Dean Six for his commitment to keep Blenko Glass alive and well.
I am working on several new concepts at the Effetto Glassworks. The most daunting is to make a large version of my iconic 1957 Blenko Mermaid decanter (page 44 of Dean Six’s latest book for Schiffer Books.)
If you have a favorite jazz composition to suggest for my next Jazz in Glass creation let me know.
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