Chris Ahalt sculpts in meticulous detail and bright colors his animal balloon series, depicting visually strong animals made fragile by delicately balancing them above on a wire. Hours of intensive work result in deceptively simple animal balloons featuring hollow glass sculptures of African and Asian elephants, black and white rhinos, giraffes, hippos, sharks, and whales, to name a few. Ahalt’s sandblasted glass is strung up on copper wire embellished with hand-forged ridges that emulate real ribbon and tethered to small weights. The flexibility of the wire enhances the illusion as the glass balloon sways back and forth.
Says Ahalt: “Balloons suggest celebration, children, and wonder. The iconic animals that I pick appeal to those child-like sensibilities. Most of us grow up with a favorite animal, and the idea of turning one’s favorite animal into a balloon seems a fitting marriage that is hard to dislike. These animal balloons also metaphorically speak to their fragile lives, many of them endangered. Some of the balloons, such as the rhino, have their legs bound alluding to the precarious environments created for them by humans. I think of these animal balloons as a mixture of playfulness and harsh reality – homage to not only the iconic beauty of these majestic animals, but also as tribute to the many endangered species that may not survive.”
Ahalt graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Sculpture/ Furniture Design,and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he specializes in custom glassware, vases, sculpture, lighting, prototyping, and commissioned work. He has taught numerous glassblowing workshops nationally and has two coming up this summer- Taming the Beastat The Chrysler Museum’s Perry Glass Studio, Norfolk, Virginia, July 6 – 11, and Pushing the Bubbleat the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, August 12 - 16. The artist’s work was featured in the 2011 March/April issue of American Craft Magazine.
Initially introduced to the world of flameworking by his good friend Repo in 1998, Ahalt’s career in flameworking was cemented by a 2005 trip to Venice, Italy, where he apprenticed under renowned master flameworker, Cesare Toffolo. The young artist learned to use jacks and diamond shears in the flame, a unique flameworking approach pioneered by Toffolo. Working in Italy had a huge impact on Ahalt, who has dedicated his career to matching the perfection of form and thinness of Venetian glass.