Lighting The Human Experience

by Diane DiRoberto

Fine art at its best invites us to take a longer and closer look at ourselves. So it is with the art of glassblowing. The nuances of the form with its array of colors, shapes, textures and inherent vulnerability appear to mimic aspects of the human condition. And while glass, an ordinary everyday material is transformed into the extraordinary, the extraordinary then becomes apart of our everyday experience -- a visual experience that brings us pleasure and inspiration.

Unlike commercial glassmaking, glassblowing is an ancient art dating back over 2000 years that remains preserved today. At all points on the globe, modern glass artists speak the universal language of the early Roman masters, working with the same tools and techniques used centuries ago, save a few advancements that have made the process more efficient. In an era of ubiquitous digital art, the slow deliberate hand of the glass worker is a reminder of the sacred legacy deeply imbedded in every piece created.

Although a centuries-old art, the glassmaking studio is relatively new to America. Eminent glass sculptor Dale Chihuly first introduced the art to the US in the early 1970’s by opening a glassblowing school in his home state of Washington. Since then Chihuly has achieved international acclaim for his boldly colorful designs and environmental installations, notable for their stunning scale and distinctive forms. Found in museum and private collections around the world, the significance of his gift has been tremendous.

With lighting considered a major architectural feature and an important aesthetic enhancement to our homes, the call for incorporating unique design elements in glass is on the rise. New artists continue to be excited by the glassblowing medium as it offers them a clarity of expression only limited by their imagination. Yet due to the fragile nature of the material, there is somewhat of a steep learning curve and only the truly passionate will prevail. 

Although many see lighting the home as a matter of practical necessity, there are those of us who enjoy being surrounded by the simple beauty and quality of carefully crafted materials and appreciate functional yet sophisticated design. We can imagine lighting our lives with a fine work of art in handblown glass that will lend meaning and grace to our personal spaces and last for generations to come.