Saturday, February 13, 2010

From Philadelphia Glass Works to Philabaum

About seven years ago, we met Nathan Purcell. He and a partner had just opened Philadelphia Glass Works on Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.

Our one visit to their studio/gallery was enough to get us hooked on the production of beautiful glass works of art. Shortly thereafter they moved to the Northern Liberties section of the city where resident artists taught classes to all levels of students on flame-working to produce glass scuptures, and a number of artists sold their works through the gallery.

We learned that the Glass Works closed its business last month, and even though the team will continue operate a similar business in Brooklyn, it was sad to learn Nathan and is team had to close the business. It is a loss for Philadelphia.

All of this is to note where our interest in glass art began. Our most recent opportunity to pursue this interest was provided the Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery in Tucson. Visitors to the studio can watch the glass blowing process.

We did not ask questions of the people working in the studio, but we could see the intensity with which they approached the process of creating a bowl.

The artists walked around the studio very calmly but very purposefully. Even with a piece of hot glass on the end of a metal rod, the steps were taken in a methodically manner.

The person shown here is using this wooden form to shape the glass into a rounded form.

Here a liquid bead is being applied by a second person as the glass piece is rotated.

Watching these artists at work made the whole process seemed far simpler than it is. However, on occasion there are instances of glass imperfections or an artist's dissatisfaction with the status of the work. At those times, the glass piece is retired to the glass trash--the destination of the piece shown here.

Some beautiful creations were on display in the adjacent gallery. One series of works by Susan Ward caught our attention. Entitled "Area Shift," pieces in this series include bowls, plates, and dishes. Each one of Ward’s limited-edition pieces is described as "beginning with a meticulously handcrafted painting, drawing or collage. The artwork is then applied to glass and sealed with seven coats of lacquer, resulting in a stunning piece that is both functional and decorative."

When we learned that Ward’s work is in the collection of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pope John Paul II, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, we felt that as admirers--if not possessors--of her works we were in good company.

As a side note: Tucson has been voted one of the Top 25 Arts Destinations in the country by the readers of AmericanStyle magazine, and it was Tom Philabaum who presented a plaque supplied by AmericanStyle commemorating the award to Tucson's mayor.

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