All About Glass

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Meet the Artist: Fritz Dreisbach

All About Glass

Fritz Dreisbach (Photo by Yvonne Streetman and courtesy of Fritz Dreisbach)

Like most pioneers of the American Studio Glass movement, Fritz Dreisbach was first drawn to the possibilities of blowing molten glass. It was the 60s. He and such early designer-artists as Dale Chihuly and Marvin Lipofsky were happily blowing organic, eccentric, free-form objects purposefully shunning both the traditions of European glassblowers and the glass industry’s focus on function. “It was all brand new. We didn’t know where it was going… The spirit of the times was one of experimentation and freedom, and glass seemed like the perfect medium,” recalls Dreisbach.

Though some of his peers veered into other ways of working with glass, and some returned to ceramics, Driesbach has stayed with glassblowing for almost 50 years. His work is notable for expressing the fluidity and weight of glass and capturing the gooey “wet” quality of glass in its molten form. He has also become a student of historic glass traditions and glass chemistry. He mastered the Venetian techniques of filigree long ago, though the delicate, colorful strands make unexpected appearances in his heavy, undulating “Mongos,” which purposely simulate the “out-of-control” movement of hot glass. Applied bits of glass flow down the sides of his vessel from a massive, wet-looking lip, and appear to pool at the base. Overlays of transparent glass refract and magnify the filigree, which seem to sway and shimmer in sunlit waters, or darken in shadow, depending on the light and the viewer’s position.

Commemorative Pokal Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the 1962 Toledo Glass Workshops and Fritz Dreisbach’s 30 Years of Working with Glass, Fritz Dreisbach with the assistance of Lark Dalton, 8th Rakow Commission, 1993 (93.4.26)

More recently, he began experimenting with cutting and carving colored blown-glass “blanks.” While the glass is still hot, he adds bits of glass to the original bubble to vary thickness and color. Then he carves sharp, non-geometric edges in the glass to amplify thick-to-thin variations and create the appearance of perpetual movement. He is also exploring surface treatments that balance smoothness and roughness. “What I am after is glass that light moves through easily, appearing never to stop.”

A %%founding%% member of the Glass Art Society, 1993 recipient of the Museum’s Rakow Commission, 2002 recipient of the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and unofficial historian of the American Studio Glass movement, Dreisbach has played a singular role in promoting glass as an artistic medium. In the early years, he traveled the country, demonstrating glassblowing, and organizing workshops and classes. Since then, he has taught in glassmaking schools and programs worldwide. Like his glass— colorful, spontaneous, and exuberant—he has inspired so many artists to try working with glass that he has rightly been dubbed the “Johnny Appleseed” of the American Studio Glass movement.

Published on July 31, 2012