The Art of Glass: Part 1

Today on Museum Bites we’re continuing our tour through the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA) with a stroll through their stunning collection of sculptured glass. In this first of a two-part series, we’ll travel from the Italian kitchen to the African desert, feasting our eyes on breathtaking designs and discovering some of the secrets to this delicate art. Our first piece represents a tasty Italian treat…

Glass is a very old material, a natural material that relates to life.
~ Lino Tagliapietra

Stromboli (2001) by Lino Tagliapietra, FIA, Photo by cjverb (2018)-300px
Stromboli (2001) by Lino Tagliapietra, FIA, Photo by cjverb (2018)

Sizzling Glass:  Crafted from blown glass, maestro, Lino Tagliapietra’s Stromboli (2001) is a mouthwatering, tomato-red vessel. Its deep green trim and red and orange-black disks conjure up images of pesto, tomatoes, olives, and pepperoni. Delizioso! Tagliapietra was born on the Italian island of Murano, in the heart of Venetian glassmaking. He excelled in the craft and achieved maestro status (aka master glassblower) by his early 20s. Several versions of his Stromboli are on display throughout the world, including a sizzling red and black version as well as an icy blue. Click on this Lino Tagliapietra link to see more colorful examples of his work.

Fun Stromboli Fact #1: Non-Italians often confuse stromboli and calzone. Both are wrapped in pizza dough and contain sauce, cheese, and other popular pizza toppings. A stromboli, however, is wrapped like a burrito while a calzone is folded like a taco and sealed shut. Despite these differences, they are both delicious!

Fun Stromboli Fact #2: Stromboli is not only art or a tasty Italian snack, but it is also the name of an island and a volcano. The Stromboli volcano is one of three located on the aptly named Stromboli Island and has been sputtering and spewing nonstop since 1932. Nicknamed the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean, the Stromboli volcano’s lava serves as a beacon to ships passing by. Stromboli Island is located in the Northeastern part of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Glassblowing Demo, FIA, Photo by cjverb (2018)
Glassblowing Demo, FIA, Photo by cjverb (2018)

Fun Glassy Fact: Blowing glass is an ancient art first employed by the Syrians in the 1st century BCE. Prior to glassblowing, glass objects were created by pouring molten glass into molds. Click on this glassblowing video, courtesy of the Discovery Channel’s How It’s Made, to see this ancient craft in action.

Springy Glass:  Libellula Mizimah (2000) by Toots Zynsky is a vibrant, Kelly green sculpture reminiscent of springtime sprouts. And the delicate threads flowing across this piece are similar to the fine filaments of a libellula’s (aka dragonfly) wings. Zynsky’s lush, flower-like vessels are achieved through a technique she pioneered called, filet de verre, French for glass net. The procedure involves fusing layers of thin, spaghetti-like rods of colored glass and then shaping the softened mass into the artist’s undulant designs. Zynsky has experimented with a variety of colors and textures and the results are spectacular. Click on this Toots Zynsky video clip, courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass, to watch her create these stunning vessels using her filet de verre technique.

Fun Familial Fact: Libellula is commonly known as a skimmer, a migratory dragonfly. An individual skimmer can travel up to 3,730 miles when in the heat of migration. The entire trip spans 11,200 miles and is a multigenerational effort.

Fenek (2011) by Marta Klonowska, FIA, Photo by cjverb (2018)-300px
Fenek (2011) by Marta Klonowska, FIA, Photo by cjverb (2018)

Shattered Glass:  The spiky Fenek (2011) is a whimsical piece created by Polish artist, Marta Klonowska. Made of cut glass, Fenek’s giant bunny ears, fluffy squirrel tail, and bristly hedgehog quills make this character look like a cartoon. But Fenek or fennec in English, is an adorable little desert fox that hails from Northern Africa. Like Klonowska’s sculpture, fennecs have a small body, bushy tail, and unusually large ears. To simulate the fur, Klonowska has bonded shards of icy blue glass to a metal frame. The inspiration for her work comes from animals featured in historical paintings. The obedient dog who sits patiently at his master’s side or in the case of Fenek, a fluffy, big-eared fox. To view more of her delightful work, click on this Marta Klonowska link.

Fun Foxy Fact:  The wee fennec is cousin to the chihuahua and the smallest fox in the fox family weighing in at a mere 2.2 lbs.

That wraps up the first half of our tour through the FIA’s collection of glass art. Next week, we’ll take a look at more eye-catching examples featuring cast, lampwork, and pâte de verre glass. Until then, have a wonderful week!


Britannica: Dragonfly

Britannica: Fennec

Britannica: Glass

Britannica: Glassblowing

Britannica: Murano

Bon Appetit

Corning Museum of Glass: Dictionary

Corning Museum of Glass: Origins of Glassmaking

Corning Museum of Glass: Toots Zynsky & Filet de Verre Demo

Flint Institute of Arts

Geology: Stromboli

Habatat: Marta Klonowska

How It’s Made: Blown Glass

Lino Tagliapietra

MyModernMet: Marta Klonowska


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