world-renowned glass artist located in Washington State, Phil Siegel developed his own unique understanding of flameworked glass without any formal education or apprenticeship. With an extensive background in construction and education in architecture, he challenges himself to create a relationship between fantasy and structure throughout his pieces while relating to his spiritual, intellectual, and emotional self.
Born in 1972 in Petaluma, California, Siegel developed a career as a general contractor designing and building high-end homes, working with clients from the ground up. In 2008 the economy crashed, banks stopped loaning money, and people stopped building houses. Out of work and experiencing his first winter off in years, Siegel began exploring a book he’d purchased 18 years earlier – Intro to Glassblowing by Homer Hoyt.
In 2010, at age 38, Siegel took his first classes in flameworking pipes, something he’d wanted to do since seeing basic spoon pipes at a Grateful Dead show years prior. As a busy contractor, he had no idea how pipe art had evolved over the years, and his fellow students suggested he check out Instagram for education and inspiration. Siegel eventually progressed in his own torch skills to the point where the owner of the studio where he was taking classes, Dustin Revere at Revere Glass in Berkeley, offered him a job. Siegel worked there for five months before opening his own studio. His early glass included sculptural pieces adorned in classical line work, horns, symmetrical builds that were classically inspired, and bumblebee rigs. But perhaps one of his most successful series began six years into his glass career. When Siegel’s wife suggested he make a pipe for himself, the artist created a wizard figure based on a Christmas gnome he’d made as an ornament.
He states: “I posted it as a goof really. I never thought people would enjoy it so much. But there was nobody making a wizard pipe at that time. And the more that I made, the more people requested them. It was the first time I made something that wasn’t an exercise in discipline. I came from a world that rewarded precision, symmetry, proper planning. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience making something whimsical and fun. It was hard for me to begin with. I’m thankful for the wizards more than anything, because they allowed me to find that more childlike part of myself when it comes to the creative process.”
An avid reader of Joseph Campbell, archetypes resonate with Siegel. When he noticed that pipe artists weren’t utilizing traditional art space – walls – the artist created a series of shallow shadowbox pieces featuring fish in 3D movement. These works frame pipes in a new way while telling a story. Siegel was inspired by a legend involving a huge school of golden Koi swimming upstream the Yellow River in China. Gaining strength by fighting against the current, the school glimmered as they swam together through the river. When they reached a waterfall at the end of the river, many of the Koi turned back, letting the flow of the river carry them away. The remaining Koi refused to give up. Leaping from the depths of the river, they attempted to reach the top of the waterfall to no avail. Their efforts caught the attention of local demons, who mocked their efforts and heightened the waterfall out of malice. After a hundred years of jumping, one Koi finally reached the top of the waterfall. The gods recognized the Koi for its perseverance and determination and turned it into a golden dragon, the image of power and strength.
“I’m intrigued by folklore in general because it’s specifically tailored for each culture but is also globally understood by humanity,” explains Siegel. “All cultures share archetypes – hero, martyr, pariah. These stories are universal and touch on many of the same motifs. They warn or inspire. They’re equally powerful, and people gravitate toward both.”
Describing himself as “more rigid in the way he thinks things through,” Siegel is currently working on a project that required 200 hours of prep. One of his ancient Lost Gods series, the Feathered Serpent is a prominent supernatural entity or deity, found in many Mesoamerican religions. It is still called Quetzalcoatl among the Aztecs. The double symbolism used by the Feathered Serpent is considered allegoric to the dual nature of the deity, where being feathered represents its divine nature or ability to fly to reach the skies and being a serpent represents its human nature or ability to creep on the ground among other animals of the Earth, a dualism very common in Mesoamerican deities.
Says Siegel: “Snake motifs, bird motifs, these Gods are inspired by multidimensional beings that passed into this dimension to share knowledge and help humanity evolve.”
On 4/20, Siegel had a solo show at Fuego Smoke Shop called Conjuring Clouds. From January 30 – February 3, 2023, he, Lacey (Laceface) Walton, and Chris (Hickory) Vickers collaborated at the Coring Museum of Glass studio, employing advanced flameworking techniques that included complex assembly of hollow forms and finely detailed solid sculptural elements, which came together into a compositional sculpture. This work incorporated each artist’s individual style into a seamlessly blended idea. From May 18 – 20, Siegel and LaceFace will co-teach a class at Orlando Glass Union, Orlando, Florida.
Says Siegel: “The most exciting things going on in glass right now are happening in the pipe world. We are not constricted by traditional ideals of art. It’s pulled from a nexus of popular imagery from our own small community and larger cultural elements. These things aren’t really being expressed in much of any of the other glass that’s being made. The pipe community has a lot of pretty far-reaching ideas.”
For four generations, the Raiffe family toy designers and inventors used ingenuity and creativity to bring joy to others. In homage to this family tradition, Josh Raiffe carries out that mission in his own uniquely beautiful medium – hot glass. He recently caught the attention of both art and fashion lovers with his creative glass interpretation of the Coperni Swipe Bag – a modern handbag designed to adorn a subject’s hand.
Coperni approached Raiffe to create a glass bag for a photo shoot. His original design was inspired by the painting of Saint Denis of Paris. Holding his head in his hands, a halo appears where St. Denis’ head once rested. Raiffe wanted to create a glass handbag that would reveal a halo around the hand of its wearer, selecting colors to illuminate the hand as if to reveal a divinity from within.
Experimenting with glass color combinations, he applies an overlay to the inside and outside of each of his bags. The glass layers work in concert to create color combinations that are amplified through a coldworking process. The resulting objects have captured the attention of art and fashion enthusiasts alike, making the laborious process required to create them worthwhile.
Raiffe loves to create in a space where emotion and instinct supersede language and rationality. His pieces are first and foremost inspired by personal relationships and emotions such as love, conflict, anger or intimacy. He creates pieces that allow the owner/observer to feel something unique based on their own personal experiences. As an artist who celebrates self-expression, he explains: “I hope people use my work to express themselves by adorning their spaces and their bodies with objects that speak to them.”
The son of Meryl Raiffe, owner of The Glass Underground, Warren, New Jersey, Josh Raiffe earned his BFA from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During that time, he worked for Belle Mead Hot Glass, Township, New Jersey, producing blown chandelier parts and taught classes at the Crefeld School in Philly. Upon graduating from Tyler, he received the Steve Stormer Award and the Penland Partner Scholarship, which allowed him to attend the Penland School of Craft, Bakersfield, North Carolina. He has also been fortunate enough to attend classes at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, and the Bullseye Resource Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Raiffe has taught glass classes at the Tyler School of Art, East Falls Glassworks in Philly, Brooklyn Glass and UrbanGlass in New York. He also assists with fabrication for glass artists Thaddeus Wolf, Rob Wynne, Mitchiko Sakano, Jamie Harris and Deborah Czeresko. As a Brooklyn-based designer, Raiffe has collaborated with DesignSpec Co-Founder Fiona Sanipelli to create original art installations for interiors projects. His work, which also includes lighting and neon, has been exhibited at Philadelphia locations such as the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Sculpture Gym, and the Spirit of the Artist, and at 555 Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts. It was featured on the pages of New Glass Review 38, The Corning Museum of Glass’ yearly survey of cutting-edge artworks made with glass. Raiffe is represented by Habatat Gallery, Piece Gallery, Strada and Hawk Gallery.
Objects become memorable when they prompt an emotional response from their audience. Though Raiffe’s glass work has been owned by celebrities such as Dojacat, Kylie Jenner, JT, Beth Dewoody, Olivia Song and Snoop Dog, he makes art to be enjoyed by the masses.
Drawing from the wild and erotic character of the natural environment, Bri Chesler’s work reflects on cultural obsessions of beauty and their relationships to internal anatomies. By fusing similar elements found in biology and botany she creates forms that flirt with the audience, exploring ideas of intimacy and desire. Known for its nontraditional approach, her work combines a variety of glass techniques with other media.
Says Chesler: “Over the last few years glass has become the focus of my material exploration. The process revolves around using your body, the momentum of its movements, and your breath to shape a form. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. A dance between artist and medium, each movement carefully caressing, convincing the glass to become something new. The reality and illusion of its fragility, its weightless transparent quality, feed into the idea of being exposed, a material, a skin, that has the ability to be both vacant and full of depth.”
She continues: “I like to maintain a glass focus while using a multidisciplinary approach, emphasizing qualities found in both materials that translate a similar idea or aesthetic. Manipulating surfaces and materials in a way that plays with the audiences’ perception allows me to develop a surreal dialog by diminishing the limitations of material identity. The cohesion of different glass techniques and other media has become something innate to my making; it’s what defines me as a glass artist. It not only allows me to explore the material in untraditional ways, but it also demonstrates and highlights the multidimensional nature of glass itself.”
Though she now lives in Seattle, Chesler credits her Palm Beach upbringing as a major influence. While Florida’s landscapes inspired the foundation for her conceptual ideas, the cultural environment informed the themes of superficial beauty, intimacy, and empathy. A product of BAK MSOA and Dreyfoos High School of the Arts, the former alum always knew her calling was a visual one. She discovered her passion for glass while studying metal and foundry processes at the Kansas City Art Institute during her undergraduate studies. The sensual and organic aesthetic of glass resonated with Chesler in a way that metal did not.
Chesler has received accolades such as the 2019 Pilchuck Emerging Artist-in-Residence award, the 2020 Hauberg Fellowship, the 2021 Glass Art Society’s Saxe Emerging Artist Award, and a Chihuly Gardens and Glass Anniversary Scholarship. In 2022, she taught as an instructor at Pilchuck Glass School and was featured in a solo exhibition, titled Untamed: The Anatomy of Desire, at the Center on Contemporary Arts in Seattle. Her works have also been exhibited at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington State and Habatat Gallery in Michigan.
DELECTABLE, a collaborative installation, is on view now through April 15 at Method Gallery. Chesler and MinHi England (Blown Away 3 finalist) bonded after learning about shared traumatic life experiences, only to realize the conceptual parallels in their artistic practice. In 2017, they founded a collaborative brand called Liquid Lush Studio and have since been collaborating artistically. Throughout that time, they have continued a partnership not only creatively but in a familial friendship. The two describe themselves as “widow wives” after caring for and witnessing cancer take the life of Jesse England. After surviving this new shared traumatic life experience, their connection grew stronger and motivated the two to continue a collaborative partnership.
Museum of Glass (MOG), Tacoma, presents a concert in the Hot Shop on April 20, featuring local music group Mirrorgloss alongside live glassblowing demonstrations led by Chesler and England. The artists will act as lead gaffers for the evening, guiding Museum of Glass Hot Shop Starter Sarah Gilbert and students from the Hilltop Artists program in creating works inspired by the music. The event is inspired by the themes of feminism and the work of powerful women-identifying and gender-expansive artists in MOG’s current exhibition She Bends: Redefining Neon Legacy.
Chesler and England will also demonstrate at the Glass Art Society Conference in Detroit, Michigan, in June 2023 as well as co-teach at OxBow School of Art, Saugatuck, Michigan, in July 2023.
Both through his own works and his activities in education, Richard Meitner has had a profoundly positive and highly visible impact on art in glass internationally. His works have been shown around the world and have been included in almost every major international museum exhibition of art in glass for the last 25 years. In spite of his considerable reknown, Meitner’s work has never been mainstream. His place is always on the outer edge of what is happening, searching, challenging, discovering, taking risks, as if he were a child at play. It is this desire to discover and speak as a child does, to learn and rejoice in that learning, but also the willingness to be caught off guard, and amazed or puzzled by experience, which has always been at the heart of his activities.
Anna Venini wrote: “The best way to express what I like most about Richard and his work is perhaps this: he lives in an extraordinary world, one that is not simply the pleasing world of fairy tales but is at the same time a breeding ground for some serious (albeit elusive) philosophical thought and research. It is from this place that he creates. It is my feeling that he has not only already accomplished great things, but has, in addition, a long career in front of him as an important artist. I come from a family of glass makers. I love Richard’s work most certainly not only for that reason, but also because Richard is able to approach that material and to use it with culture, with great fantasy and originality, with authority and great thoughtfulness. That combination is, in my experience, highly unusual.”
An artist with decades of experience and practice in art and art education, Meitner has lived in Amsterdam since 1972. He has lectured and conducted workshops in the U.S.A., Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Malta, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Italy and Japan. He has been invited artist-in-residence in many countries and has worked as a designer for the glass industry in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Additionally, Meitner has served on the Dutch National Commission for Endowments for the Arts and the Dutch National Advisory Board for the Arts. Together with Mieke Groot, he was responsible from 1981 to 2000 for the glass department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. In 2006, he was appointed to the faculty for Science and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (New University of Lisbon), Portugal. Meitner’s major exhibitions include a retrospective at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs of the Louvre in Paris, and solo shows at the National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine in Leiden, Netherlands, the National Glass Museum in Sunderland, England, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Corning Museum of Glass in the U.S.A. His work is included in the permanent collections of more than 60 museums in 16 countries. In 2020, the artist received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Glass Art Society.
In 2016, Meitner earned a PhD in sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon, Portugal. His doctoral thesis made the case that in education and public policy for art, the way we define, make policy for and teach art is in many respects incorrect and ineffective. He formulates his arguments citing science and many other sources that strongly suggest that we need urgently to discuss, rethink and come to much more accurate and useful understandings of what making and appreciating art are really about.
In 2023, Meitner will begin work for his upcoming solo show at Galeria Caterina Tognon in Venice during the Biennale and continue to build a working collaboration with his partner, Nataliya Vladychko, a talented Ukrainian artist. He will also carry on his work with the Vicarte Research Unit at Universidade Nova in Lisbon, i.e. working with young student artists in the Master’s degree program for the Art and Science of Glass and Ceramics.
Saya Meitner: “Helping young talented artists as a teacher is something I’ve done for many decades, and has become quite an important aspect of both my career and my life.”