The glass form I come back to again and again in my work right now is called Spirit Fruit – and it is literally a state of mind.
About two years ago I experienced a series of traumatic events which set me on a spiritual path. I started meditating, which radically changed my life. I abstain completely from drugs and alcohol; I changed my diet, and now I seek a Zen way of living. This spiritual awakening has affected my work in its process, form and inspiration. Spirit Fruit as a body of work is the result of a personal and intense spiritual journey, and it has an important connection with my childhood, spent in Africa on fruit plantations.
Spirit Fruit is the first shape I have explored on my new-found path. I see it less as a shape that as the product of a spiritual process then a specific shape.
My interest in glass started in 1998 when I was 18 years old, and moved to Seattle. There, I discovered artistic blown glass in numerous galleries. Right away I was fascinated with the process. I've worked with my hands from an early age, and I was very intrigued by glass methods. Unfortunately, before I could actually get to work, I was involved in a terrible car accident; I went through the windshield and broke over 30 bones in my body. Needless to say it was a very slow recovery process, but during that time I read everything I could get my hands on about glass blowing and its history. Soon my new-found passion became an obsession, and it sent me around the world to master it.
I've learned from numerous people whom I consider mentors: San Francisco-based glass artist Jaime Guerrero was my first teacher who taught me the basics. From Jim Mongrain I learned a great deal about the flow of hot glass and how most of one's technique is learning how to use the natural movement of glass to find its shape. Jonathan Christie showed me sculptural techniques and a different way of using glass. Lino Tagliapietra, with whom I worked only for a couple of days, taught me about one's attitude towards glass and the importance of being calm and almost meditative during the process. Davide Salvadore, whom I approached in Venice, took me under his wing is probably the most important teacher because he taught me all the old Venetian techniques of color application, and the deep history Venetian glass.
The process used I use to make Spirit Fruit is an Italian technique of surface decoration called filigrane. It starts with colored glass cane, which are stretched into thin strings of color. The strings are then made into in different shapes and stretched again; only at a certain point I add a twisting motion which creates a cotton candy-like pattern, and this long thin twisted cane is cut again and picked up off the hot plate, and wrapped around a hot bubble of glass where its melted into the surface. At this point, the piece is blown into its final shape.
Blown glass has only really been considered an art since the 1980's when glass was first sold in galleries. Prior to that, it was considered only a craft. The change is thanks to the movement that occurred in Washington State during the last 30 years. People like Dale Chihuly took the techniques of glass and explored more artistic endeavors. He influenced a whole generation of artists who took it on as fine art. Suddenly it was taught in art schools, and places like Pilchuck Glass School were built.
Thus, the movement of glass blowing is very recent compared to other mediums and its expansion is exponential. Until recently glass has been confined to very specific parts of the world and to a strict craft label. Today it's becoming more global and influential. I believe we are only still at the beginning of its full potential, its presence and influence in the art world.
However, the process of making blown glass is so craft-oriented in the techniques used, and the nature of the vessel is so nearly functional that I think glass really blurs the line between craft, art and design.
In the long-run I'm not sure where this will all go but I look forward to sharing my work with the world. This is a wonderful experience, and because I've never been part of something like this, I also look forward to learning a great deal.
Learn more about Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert at www.jeremyglass.com