Seattle glass art legend Benjamin Moore died on June 25, 2021. He was 69. His passing has been a shock to the glass community — both locally and beyond — evidenced by outpourings of sadness from such institutions as the American Craft Council, UrbanGlass, Tacoma Art Museum and Pilchuck Glass School, where Olympia-born Moore took a class in 1974 (a college graduation gift from his parents).
A seminal figure in establishing Seattle as a contemporary glass center, Moore provided his studio and top-notch glassblowing team to make the work of the world’s finest artists and designers. The groundbreaking art produced on King Street at Benjamin Moore, Inc. (BMI) contributed both to the glass arts and the art world at large. But the true gift of art making within this supportive community is the camaraderie and lifelong friendships born out of such a unique creative environment. This is the lifeblood of the Seattle glass experience.
Said Moore, in our 2013 conversation: “The one thing I learned from Dale (Chihuly) that made a profound impact on me and has always been a part of my career is the joy of working with others. The camaraderie of our community here, working with one another and supporting each other, is huge. Dante Marioni and Preston Singletary both came to work for me out of high school, and when I look at their careers now, I’m the proudest guy in the world.”
Moore served as Chihuly’s primary gaffer from 1975 to 1982 and was the first educational coordinator at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, beginning in 1977. Following graduate studies with Chihuly at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Moore went to work at the Venini Glass Factory in Murano, Italy. In 1978 he brought the Italians to Pilchuck for the first time to demonstrate time-honored techniques rarely seen by US artists. For the Americans, this exposure resulted in a dramatic increase in the sophistication of works produced and further entrenched the value and process of working glass as a team.
Though Moore dedicated much of his career to making Chihuly’s work, their aesthetic approach to glass, form, and color could not be more different. In his own work, Moore reveals a Modernist sensibility reflected in pure geometric forms and simple colors. Translucent, a solo exhibition held at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, from February 2012 though October 2013, presented a selection of his masterpieces that simultaneously evoke aspects of historical tradition and the refinement of a unique contemporary aesthetic.
Inspired by Scandinavian ceramics of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Moore’s objects in glass possess a timelessness achieved by the artist’s focus on color, shape, and proportion. By altering the way light interacts with the work through opacity, translucency, and transparency, he created different impressions for each series of his work. The fundamental concern and focus of his own work was to achieve simplicity, balance, and clarity of form.
He said: “If you think of trying to blow something off hand on the round, historically almost everything had already been done. To come up with something fresh and totally new with those parameters was almost impossible.”
Almost. Moore’s The Interior Fold Series (1975) incorporates the technique of folding the transparent glass onto itself. The ancient Romans used this technique as a utilitarian detail in the vessel form, giving the piece added thickness. “I use this folding technique as a design or aesthetic element. In this series, I combine this folding technique with a horizontal plane of glass, which is spun out from the fold. The spiral wrap on the horizontal plane emphasizes the circular form.”
Moore’s Palla Series (1983) was developed and based on the simple spherical form “palla” – the Italian word for ball. In this series, the sphere functions as the foot of the form as well as the focal point. “I use contrasting opaque colors to draw attention to the contrasting geometric elements. These forms are created generally in pairs, accentuating the horizontal and vertical lines. However, the bowl does stand strongly on its own.”
In the Exterior Fold Series (1978), Moore uses a similar technique to that of the Interior Fold Series. The difference being the exterior fold creates a hollow ring on the outside of the piece. This fold is used as the breaking point between the concave curve and the convex curve in the blown form. These pieces are generally displayed in groupings, and the translucent colors vary from subtle to bold.
This podcast was created from an interview with Moore recorded in 2013 and retrieved from the ToYG archives.
From Team Pilchuck
Moore was a visionary artist, an inspiring mentor, and a once-in-a-lifetime friend. Many of you knew and loved him, and many more of you have been touched by the steadfast and collaborative leadership he brought to our community over the past 50 years.
We are all deeply saddened by Benny’s recent passing, and we know how eager you are to show your care and support for Benny’s beloved wife Debora, their daughter Jasmyn, and the rest of their family.
Friends of the Moores have set up a GoFundMe page to honor Benny’s memory and assist Debora in this sad and difficult time. We want to share it with you now—if you are able, please consider contributing. Gifts of any amount are much appreciated as the family grieves and works to honor Benny’s incredible legacy.