Designer Jamie Harris Divulges the Magic of Glassblowing
For Jamie Harris, glassblowing is a combination of precisely coordinated steps and happy accidents.
 
Jamie Harris’ quad-Rock pendantis one of two versions available in that form. The other is an elongated tri-Rock. Both come in two heights. www.jamieharris.com

Harris: Glassblowing is inherently captivating. It’s a sexy, magical dance. It’s always done in a team-based environment. One or two turn the blow pipe, while I work the glass at the end. Another blows air into the pipe, while another protects my hands from the heat coming off the piece. Like dancing, there are these coordinated movements. Glass is intense. You have 30 seconds. Every touch has to be just so. So you have to develop a way of communicating with your assistants intuitively.

When I’m designing, I do rough sketches and work things out in the studio with the material. There’s spontaneity. I try different touches and approaches to get the feeling that my sketch is supposed to evoke. But generally, it’s locked in my head. So to make a chandelier, I can get good consistency among all of the pieces because it’s in my head. I do some computer modeling for large-scale chandeliers and wall installations. But this is to help deal with the placement of multiple objects, not so much to design each individual object.

I like to capture the way glass blows. My Rock pendants are an example. I suck air out of the glass to create some ripples, but the inspiration is what happens when you do something wrong. The wrong type of breath ripples the wrong way. It can be beautiful when the glass is hot and it happens spontaneously. It’s almost never beautiful when it cools down. So my inspiration was trying to capture the ballet-like movement of the team working and shaping hot molten material. I want the glass to hang and look like it’s falling — not the object itself, but the ripples in the glass as it cools.

Much of my sculptural work is about color — color contrasts, putting colors together in ways to create abstract, emotional resonance. I bring this same sensibility to my lighting. Recently, I’ve been working with opaque glass. An interesting phenomenon happens when you take opaque glass and shine a light through it. The glass becomes somewhat opaque and somewhat not. Half of the color is blue and half looks white, but actually it’s all blue. It’s just the optical illusion of shining light through opaque glass. I’ve been exploring that with my Open pendants. These pieces are blown and layered with color and later carved and polished. You can see the light source directly and how it glows within the piece.

  • Jamie Harris’ quad-Rock pendantis one of two versions available in that form. The other is an elongated tri-Rock. Both come in two heights. www.jamieharris.com
  • The Open pendant series was inspired by Harris’ multi-tone Open Collection of vessels.

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