Glass Flowers (the mainstay of our business for over 15 years) making a comeback.
I’m not sure what it is, besides having always enjoyed flower gardens, that makes glass flowers so captivating for me. When I began blowing glass one of the first things I learned to make was a pulled flower. The pulled flower is something a novice can be taught and will almost always turn out on the first try. Glass can be incredibly intimidating for some; so to have a beginner be able to put one in the plus column on his or her first try is a big deal. Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to get hooked. I certainly did.
In 1990 I was ending one career and looking to take on something new; I was taking a glass-fusing class with my sister Bonnie and just looking around for new ideas. I remember peering around the corner in the workshops of my fusing class and becoming fascinated by the seeming magic of what the glassblowers were doing. I began to sign up for one class in glassblowing after another. Diving in, I began to study the world of glass blowing, trying to learn who was who and what various styles were from where and by whom. I pursued classes with Maestros like Pino Signoretto and Lino Tagliopietra and I realized I need to go to Venice, more specifically, to Murano.
Murano is the Mecca of glassblowing. After 6 or 8 months of struggling to get past the basics, I was convinced that all the answers to my questions were there. From equipment building and design to all the secrets of technique, I knew I would find the key in Murano. And I was right. I made my way to Italy and found myself in a wonderland. After figuring out how to find the places that made the kind of work I wanted to make and armed with a couple of names like Pino Signoretto and Lino Taglapietro I began to make my rounds and watch. While in Murano I also learned about Dino Tedeschi, known simply as Dino, his tools are legendary.
I visited the Valese Foundry where they make bronze optic molds and Arcangele, another mold maker. And of course, I went to see Roberto Donna, who made some of the best glass working tools in the world. I found myself surrounded in a world of glass; for me it was like being a kid in a candy store. After the initial shock and awe of being there I began to focus and absorb the amazing glass. The Venetian chandeliers and wine glasses caught my eye and held it. Each one is more intricate and beautiful than the next. The chandeliers were like hanging gardens, filled with all kinds of flowers and leaves in colors ranging from clear to deep reds, greens and yellows. Everything I wanted to learn was in a chandelier or a goblet -more technique than you could shake a stick at.
From then on there was no looking back. Flowers were the focus of the business. We made roses, daffodils,tulips, sunflowers, irises, poppies, cattails, bird of paradise, and many others. We were on the cover of the spring catalog of Barneys one year and Sachs another. We were so busy making flowers that we typically would make 150 flowers a day 4-5 days a week for almost 4 years. And after that I prayed no one would ever order another flower again; and in a way my wish came true. As quickly as it all began it ended. In a word: China. China took over. Suddenly what I would sell for $25 wholesale factories in China would sell for $2. Of course they were not of the same quality, but to the buyers the much lower price point meant bigger margins. And so it goes.
Today we still make flowers, but not at the same frazzled pace of 15 years ago. We sell them in our gallery and often include them in our chandeliers and wall sconces. They are once a gain a pleasure to make and a nostalgic way of remembering our beginnings as a growing business.