John & Erin Blackwell
I began working with glass at the age of 21 on a torch in 1999 after meeting a glassblower in a bar. I observed just one glassblowing demonstration from him the following week, then I went out and spent all of my money, including next month’s rent, on glassblowing tools & supplies. I was hooked! After six months of teaching myself various methods through trial & error, I decided to expand my skills so I attended two semesters of a glassblowing class at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. At the university I learned basic glassblowing techniques & observed the operations of a soft glass studio which I was able to incorporate into the design of our current studio. I met Erin in 2001. She learned to blow glass by observing & assisting me in a public studio where I rented time. We soon began working on every piece together. Within a few years, I taught myself how to weld and built our first glassblowing studio.
We now operate our glassblowing studio in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We enjoy working with transparent colors, adding kane & murrini to create vessels with elegant form, rich color, & carefully-executed detail. Murrini is made by overlaying or dripping molten colored glass on top of hardened colored glass, completely covering it, many times creating multiple layers of colors in the glass Then the layered glass is pulled into a 50 foot strand or until it is the width of a pencil. After the glass cools, it is cut into 1/4” pieces and arranged face up exposing the overlaid color sequence in a circular disc shape. The murrini is heated to 1100 degrees, rolled up seamlessly into the molten glass and melted down, creating the pattern you see. It takes several hundred of these murrini pieces to make one piece of art.
The white lattice pattern in some of our pieces is called a “Retichello”. People always wonder if the pattern is cut into the glass after the blowing process is over and the glass has cooled to room temperature, but achieving a Retichello is much more complicated than a series of simple cuts. First of all, it is made when the glass is in the molten form and cannot be touched by hand. One little mistake is uncorrectable, making this process unbelievably difficult, impossible to most. It is made with separate rods of white glass we make called “kane”. The kane is laid out, rolled up and melted into the clear glass during the blowing process. Once the kane is melted down it appears like lines of white in the clear. It is then heated up and twisted with overlapping layers of white lines thus creating the perfect Reticello, the most difficult to achieve of all glassblowing techniques.
We love using transparent colors as they enhance the piece allowing light to travel thought it. We love the optics that are created by the curvature of the glass along with the texture and various depths of the interior walls. The way the colors and patterns will distort, expand, contract and constantly move as we walk around the piece will never get old. The beauty, color, fun and joy a piece will bring to a room is truly addictive.