Glass is all around us and is most often viewed as little more than a modern convenience.
The glass produced by German Village area artist Anthony Gelpi, though, is a celebration of the intricacies of glassblowing.
Gelpi builds on the style of glass art revolutionized by medium pioneers such as Dale Chihuly. He works mainly in smaller objects: vases, plates, bowls and the like. Whereas Chihuly creates one piece out of many ethereal bits, Anthony captures that whimsy in a single object.
In the summer of 2012, Anthony took his modern style to Istanbul to teach an eight-week class. His advanced glassblowing course at Cam Ocagi was filled with students from all over Turkey, China, Russia and the Czech Republic.
To prepare, he arrived early with his wife and they curated their own crash course on Turkish culture. Some of the most striking glassworks on their tour were the chandeliers of the Turkish palaces. They were so wonderful that Gelpi felt compelled to recreate one such classical chandelier with his students there.
“What I love about teaching is how it takes you all sorts of places,” he says. “I never thought I’d go to Istanbul.”
The path to understanding glassblowing was a winding one for Anthony. He’d seen demonstrations and glass work as a child, but didn’t think any more of it until college.
After high school, Gelpi moved from Dublin, Ohio to Oregon to study music. He found an apartment for rent full of glassblowers who had a studio in their garage.
“When they first handed me the stick, it inspired me,” he says.
From there, Gelpi went to Italy to study the art, then to France. In a very short time, Anthony worked with a series of people who inspired him in the glassblowing field. Classically trained in the Italian style, he tried to bring something unique to the table.
“I used those techniques and tried to mix it with something more,” Anthony says. “Design is technical; shape is whimsical.”
Looking at his work, the viewer can see that Gelpi shifts that balance around. Many of his vases have a flair of the modern to complement a more-or-less traditional shape. The top might narrow into a thin tube of glass and curl wildly off the top, or the body may be mottled with texture.
When it’s not the shape that suggests the contemporary, it’s the design that draws the eyes. Gelpi has a keen eye for color that pops. He finds spectacular ways to overlay color, dotting a piece up and down with patterns, and, perhaps his greatest strength, he can juxtapose contrasting colors to make them work together.
Each of Gelpi’s creations focuses on either shape or design, but he will also balance a piece somewhere on the spectrum between the two. His work is comfortable anywhere from living room to museum.
Currently, Gelpi is in Chicago working on a commission for a Hilton hotel. He does his best work, he says, when he’s seen the space ahead of time.
His task: to build an artful glass chandelier. This piece will be about 8 feet by 6 feet – a “medium-sized” piece for Gelpi, he says, as he’s made chandeliers up to 15 feet long in the past.
If Chicago is too far to travel to see Gelpi’s hotel work, the lobby of the new Hilton in downtown Columbus will soon feature a few of his vases.
Finding public displays of his work here in town is becoming more challenging. Gelpi used to operate a gallery, but finds himself more and more drawn to teaching and traveling these days. He does teach locally, though, and can be contacted through his website, www.anthonygelpi.com, by those interested in lessons.
Despite the quantity of work he puts out, every piece Gelpi produces is unique. Repetition is not in his repertoire. His wife is his most significant source of inspiration, but he finds stimulation in all aspects of life.
“Nature is a huge influence,” he says, “(as are) everyday conversations with a person that’s interesting, or random occurrences.”
As the bulk of his work is done by sketching all night, the time Gelpi spends blowing glass in the shop is both a release for stress and the culmination of his designing work. That’s where he gets to do whatever he wants.
“You can literally make anything you want out of glass,” says Gelpi.
Mackenzie Worrall is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.