Famous Gaffers the World Over…
Today’s focus is the best glass blowing artists in the world, and while there are 100s of talented gaffers in the world we will only mention a small number of them as a means for the glass blowing enthusiast to be introduced to the many styles and techniques that these artists have come up with to create unique designs and to brand themselves.
Up until half a century ago this list would have been very small as glass blowing had only been predominant in Europe and USA mostly, but with the gorgeous, unique and colourful pieces that the artists produce the world over, and due to the increasing interest that people have shown for this craft over the last decades the popularity of glass blowing had skyrocketed and nowadays we can see talented glass artists in places where previously have been very few, or none, such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and others.
The names included on this list are by no means the absolute best or most unique glass artists, but they’re a great starting point for you to learn more about this craft. If any of these artists and their styles piques your interest be sure to check their sites and be inspired by their work to produce something beautiful and unique on your own.
Renowned American gaffer who was born nearly a century ago (passed away in 2013), Harvey Littleton had specialized in ceramics but before his 30th birthday he had started experimenting with glass instead of ceramics.
He is famous in the glass making industry for coming up with his own formula for melting glass at lower temperatures than the norm of that time, which had facilitated the move from industrial glass blowing (in factories) to studio glass blowing. One of his partners throughout the years had been Dominick Labino, which is one of the most prominent American gaffers himself.
Littleton is considered the father of the American glass movement and is the first artist to create a glass making program in the USA, program which had produced quite a few remarkable names itself, such as Dale Chihuly, which we will look at in a moment.
Some of Harvey Littleton’s most remarkable creations are the Four Seasons (pictured above), Implied Movement, Opalescent Red Crown, and Corona Blu.
Older than Harvey Littleton and one of his best partners, Dominick Labino considers himself more of an inventor than a glass blowing artist and rightfully so: he’s had over 60 patented works in the US, and had brought numerous contribution to scientific glass blowing, formulating new glass compositions and building his own equipment. His scientific approach to glass making is undeniable, and greatly appreciated by experts in the field (the heat-resistant fibers that NASA uses for space shuttles are his creation)
Whilst working with Littleton, Labino had been “responsible” with providing the materials and know-how for melting glass at lower temperatures and on smaller scale than it was happening at that time.
In his career Dominick Labino has had many impressive works of art, but some of his most memorable pieces are the glass sculptures, such as Fountain With Blue, Cased Aerial (pictured here), or Polychroma to name just a few.
Both Littleton and Labino’s popular works can be seen in the SAAM (Smithsonian American Art Museum).
When talking about glass blowing, you simply have to talk about Dale Chihuly, possibly the most famous glass artist alive. Just like Labino, Chihuly had also worked with Harvey Littleton throughout his career, but only as a student.
As a matter of fact, Dale Chihuly is the best student that Littleton’s glass making program had ever produced, and is recognized worldwide for his organically shaped pieces using centrifugal force and gravity. His free-flowing, or intricate large pieces have explosive colors, lots of textures and are a great attraction for art experts and amateurs alike.
Dale Chihuly’s museum is located in Seattle and produces a whole plethora of gorgeous shapes and glass pieces such as chandeliers, baskets, cylinders, free forms, and more. Be sure to check out his website as it’s a real feast for the eyes.
Based in California, William Morris is also a renowned and greatly appreciated worldwide gaffer who had worked with Dale Chihuly for more than ten years before taking his own path and becoming an outstanding craftsman.
William Morris already has more than 25 years behind him of creating carved pieces and sculptures and what sets him apart from other glass artists of the modern era is that he takes his inspiration from unique cultures around the world, such as the Asian, Egyptian or native American culture.
His work includes ancestral and mythological figurines, masks, sculptures, and more and his style is distinctive and fascinating enough to warrant a closer inspection and studying in more detail. William Morris’ work can be found in many galleries and museums throughout the USA mainly, but also in France.
One of France’s most prominent glass blowers, Rene Lalique had actually started his career as a jewelry designer but several years later he had started experimenting with glass making creating vases, bottles and other small containers.
Lalique’s undeniable talent had quickly drawn the attention of famous perfumer Francois Coty who had hired him as the main designer for his company’s perfume bottles. Soon enough, Rene’s focus and career had shifted completely from jewelry making to perfume bottle making, creating many interesting designs from clear and frosted glass.
Some of Lalique’s most recognizable works include the decoration of the Cote d’Azur Pullman Express train carriages as well as making glass chandeliers for the Normandie Luxury Liner. The French artist is also known for helping spread the Art Deco style across the world.
While the list of talented glass artists could easily be expanded to hundreds of names, we will stop the exemplification here, but not before mentioning a few more names that we feel are unique in their own way so you can check them out to further experience the colourful, sophisticated visuals of this gorgeous form of art.
Rick Satava – American gaffer known for his inclination towards nature and oceanic themes and motifs.
Deborah Czeresko – New York-based artist and instructor with contributions to, and collaborations with many European and American schools of arts and museums. She has managed to incorporate metal armor into her blown glass pieces and is known for the 2019 piece called “Meat Chandelier”.
Cathryn Shilling – London (UK)-based artist with many worldwide acclaimed pieces of art. She’s currently a member of the Art Workers Guild and a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen.
To learn more about glass blowing and learn how to make your own pieces at home without the hassles and high costs of studio glass making check out our Introduction to Glass Blowing guide where we cover all of the tools, techniques and know-how of blowing glass, the lingo, the safety measures. and step by step instructions on how to make pipes, vases, tumblers and more.