Craft Forward Symposium 2011 - Material Craft with Chris Taylor Blowing Glass (Floating in a Boat, Upside Down or Inside Out)
May 03, 2011
Chris Taylor is an expert in one material - glass.
During his lecture at Craft Forward, in the session titled "Material Craft", he showed us image after image of his objects fabricated with glass in the most extraordinary circumstances (and a testimony to his skill).
This included blowing glass in a small boat (with a custom-made kiln) 25 miles offshore in the ocean (shown in the video below),
or blowing glass while hanging upside down from the ceiling. (This gave him a terrible headache, but it looks like the whole studio had a good time.)
He has created glass that looks like sheets of bubble wrap.
Or a glass cup that looks like Styrofoam. These are playful, irreverent examples of his skill with glass. Chris Taylor tricks the viewer by making glass look like common everyday materials -- an ironic interpretation of "material craft."
His tour de force was a reproduction of a 16th-century Venetian glass goblet. He then sneaked his reproduction into a museum and placed his glass side by side with the original. The Chris Taylor glass is faithful to the original and becomes elevated as even the museum staff can’t tell the difference. You can read the story below in an image from his lecture (below).
What did I learn?
Chris Taylor tests boundaries. It seems that he never wanted to have a glass blowing kiln of his own so he teaches or goes places to experiment with glass, redefining how glass is used or made. He is interested in the edge of failure.
Taylor felt strongly that his art practice doesn't start or stop. His expertise is only because he is so thorough, practicing every day. Practice was described as a dance, with frequency and wave length finely tuned. He wasn't trying to hit us over the head with his virtuosity, it was more like he was offering his most valuable lesson - study and develop your repertoire of skill without promiscuity with other mediums.
What were the thought provoking issues raised?
Usually when I hear people profess their levels of expertise in my media (metal), I am bored. I don't really think it is all that interesting to see ancient techniques brought to 21st century. Pure technical expertise usually doesn't advance the field. In addition, I would not define reviving a five hundred year old technical expertise as Craft Forward.
On the other hand, making glass look like Styrofoam or bubble wrap or a Spalding Basketball is irreverent and playful. This is the polar opposite of the high priced glass "goop", layered, shiny prisms and dazzling light facets shown at SOFA or hotel lobbies.
But I also wonder, Is glass always about a tour de force? Is there glass with social commentary and authenticity of a personal statement?
What do you think?
Background about the speaker Chris Taylor (below).
It is hard to find information about Chris Taylor. He does not appear to have a website. I am sorry to say that his common name is lost in the search results. The overwhelming search results are deluged with athletes and musicians of the same name. He is on Instagram as @christaylored.
HINT 1: If you have a common name, use your middle name to create a more unique identity online.
HINT 2: In this day and age, I think a functional website is a necessity. Sharing your work one class or workshop at a time may be great for the moment, but it isn't Craft Forward when the most powerful medium at your disposal, the Internet, is unable to share your work with a wider audience.
I'll go one step further. Craft will never gain momentum in our culture when the leaders in the field think they don't have a responsibility to share with a wider audience. For example, Taylor should put that glass Spalding Basketball out there for all the basketball lovers of the world to fall in love with craft.
The glass cups that look like Styrofoam by Chris Taylor (below) were found on Flickr. Photo by Brian Dennison.
Above photos of glass bubble wrap, Styrofoam cup (close-up), Venetian Goblet copy, and text were by emiko oye taken during the lecture by Chris Taylor.
This post was updated on February 2, 2022, to provide current links.