Paul M. Hollister Collection, The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass
Transcribed by Bard Graduate Center
Title: Dan Dailey Interview for Paul Hollister, c. 1989-1990 (Rakow title: Dan Dailey self-interview [sound recording] / for Paul Hollister, BIB ID: 168376).
Dan Dailey, Narrator
Location: driving; on way to Dailey’s studio in New Hampshire
Caleb Weintraub-Weissman, Summary and Transcriber
Barb Elam, Editor
Date: undated (c. 1989-1990)
Length: 14 pages
Note: This transcript is based upon an audiotaped recording that has been digitally converted. The recording is part of the Paul M. Hollister Collection at The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, and was transcribed at Bard Graduate Center, New York, New York, for the digital exhibition and archive Voices in Studio Glass History: Art and Craft, Maker and Place, and the Critical Writings and Photography of Paul Hollister. Usage requests for all or part of this transcript must be obtained from The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass.
Paul Hollister often made audio recordings for research purposes in preparation for writing, including interviews with artists and curators, and lectures. The reader should bear in mind that transcriptions of these recordings reflect spoken, rather than written, prose. While every effort was made to be as accurate as possible, the sound quality of the recordings in the Paul Hollister Collection varies greatly. Transcripts have been edited for readability and occasionally condensed. They should serve as a best-effort guide to the original only and not be considered verbatim.
American artist Dan Dailey (1947– ) uses glass and metal to create sculpture and functional art, including illuminated lamps. He received his BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) in 1969, before studying glass with Dale Chihuly at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), earning his MFA in 1972. From 1973 to 2012, Dailey taught at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where he founded and led the glass department. Additionally, Daily has taught at such institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, RISD, Pilchuck Glass School, and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and he has given lectures and workshops internationally. Since the beginning of his career, he has completed over 70 architectural commissions. Daily maintains an active studio in New Hampshire.
Summary: In this recording for Paul Hollister, Dan Dailey discusses his time working at Venini in 1972 as part of a Fulbright grant, his inspiration by Shang dynasty Chinese bronzes, and his figurative and abstract works made in collaboration with Lino Tagliapietra. Dailey briefly discusses Tagliapietra’s controversial split from the Muranese glassblowing community and his recent work with organizations and companies outside of Venice.
Mentioned: acid polishing, CIRVA [International Center of Glass and Plastic Arts], Dale Chihuly, Dan Dailey, Jacques Daum, Daum, Ludovico Diaz di Santillana, Fenton Art Glass Company, Fostoria Glass Company, Fratelli Donna, Fulbright Scholarships, Spezialglashütte Kugler Colors GmbH, Checco Ongaro, Lino Tagliapietra, Murano, Rhode Island School of Design, Shang bronzes, Theo Portnoy Gallery, Venini
Related asset: Paul Hollister, “The Pull of Venice/Die magische Anziehung Venedigs: Part 2.” Neues Glas, no. 2 (1990): 82-88.
Dan Dailey (DD): This is a tape for Paul Hollister. Good morning, Paul.
I’m on my way to my studio. It’s a little before six o’clock, and it took me a few days to get to this little project because of all the work that’s going on. We’re moving to a new studio and it’s about six miles away from my house. Across the border in New Hampshire, and this particular week is really chaotic because—this week and last week—we’re installing the murals at the children’s hospital in Boston and also trying to keep track of the installation of all the machinery in the studio. Plus, electricians and plumbers and everybody else that’s in there, so it hasn’t been an easy week to concentrate, and I thought I would need some quiet time, some solitude, to do this tape recorded letter to you. So here it is. [sound of tape pausing] Plus I’m driving in my car right now so the quality of the sound may be a little different, and this is my kid’s little child Sony recorder so the quality of the sound may be further affected. But what the hell, if you get the idea then that’s really what it’s all about anyway. I’ve been thinking about it, the subject of my work at Venini and those times for me and other people, and what got me to go to Italy in the first place was on one hand a suggestion from [Dale] Chihuly, who was my teacher at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design] when I was a graduate student. I was his first graduate student—so when I was in school, Chihuly told me that he had gone to Italy and worked, I don’t know how much work he did there, but he really enjoyed his time there, and it made a lasting impression on him. He’s been going back and forth to Venice ever since. But the idea intrigued me, and I had already been entertaining a notion of moving to Europe for a period before I ever went to graduate school, so it just sort of fell in with my thinking, and I applied for a Fulbright Grant through RISD and eventually I got the award, and then time came and I moved over there.
When I went to Venini, Mr. Santillana [Ludovico Diaz di Santillana] was extremely receptive, he really was a very hospitable man—he died recently. I don’t know if you knew him or not. He was quite a person. I’ll tell you a couple interesting things about Santillana. I remember one night we were walking on the street, it was about one o’clock in the morning in Venice, and it was a winter night, not too cold, but a rainy sort of dreary night, very, very dark. And we were standing on this bridge or standing on some balcony or something and sort of looking at this cityscape, and there was a man sort of passing by in the shadows a little distance away. You could see him but you couldn’t hear him, and Ludovigo said, ‘Here’s the mark of a true gentleman, he’s got rubber soled shoes.’ Now I’m not saying that was a profound remark, that’s just a characteristic remark of Ludovigo Diaz di Santillana. And another thing I remember, he’s a hell of a driver, a hell of a driver, he had this Citroen—the DX, or DS, it wasn’t a Maserati, it was just DS. And we went on this business trip one day, and Santillana was speeding along, came to a rotary in the highway, and as we went around the rotary, this woman in some little Italian hotrod cut us off, passed on the inside of the curve. He started swearing in I don’t know what languages, and he was absolutely furious. He stepped on the gas and we chased that lady [background noise (gear shift) audible] maybe half an hour out of our way [DD’s car likely stopped at this point] to catch up with her. I don’t remember if he ever did, but he was an interesting character. I was sorry to hear that he died. [sound of tape pausing]
Well, now it’s about [sounds of DD’s car or traffic in background] an hour and a half later. When I got to the studio one of the guys that’s working there that’s come up from Pennsylvania was asleep on the floor in the studio, so I didn’t want to wake him up, so I didn’t continue my letter. Now I’m driving back for breakfast, wake up the kids and get ‘em ready for school. Second day of school today. So Santillana was an interesting character, and he was quite supportive. And really, he and his family were the main reason that Americans came into that factory, I believe. Just their attitude, they had a kind of open attitude about what might be gained by having an artist around. So they hosted a lot of people. In the end, I don’t know what they gained from their generosity, I really don’t. Toots Zynsky made some things there, and Jamie Carpenter made some things there, Ben Moore made some things there. And I suppose there were some other people that weren’t Americans that realized–[Robert] Willson of course—but they actually realized some projects that did the company some commercial good. I never did. Everything that I made—well, I’ll tell you about that. So the setup I had was that I could go into the factory, have sort of my own place to work, a bench to blow glass, or space in the cold working studio, or a table to spread out on and assemble my pieces. But I also had a studio in Venice, so mostly what I did was I made my parts for sculpture and lamps, and so on. I made a lot of illuminated objects while I was there. Most of those pieces I would just make parts at the factory and then take them back to the studio in Venice, and do my assembly there. And at the end of the time that I worked there—I suppose I worked there a total of 10 or twelve months, cause the duration of the Fulbright scholarship was a year. And I couldn’t have been in Venice the whole time, I did some traveling in the middle of it, and I also spent some time in Rome when I first got there and at the end when I had my show of all the things that I had made. But the things that I made, these lamps especially, were made from Venini’s glass, and a terrific setup in there, you could walk into the place and take glass out of 18 different furnaces, all kinds of fantastic colors, much better than the Kugler colors, the whole range of Italian colors, I think. Especially in that factory there was a kind of earthy tone to it all, a much more muted sense of color that was really, really beautiful in a very Italian, typically Italian manner too. The color, I mean. So the colors were good, and then they gave me access to their metal prototype shop. It was a company that they worked with, so anything that I wanted made out of metal, these people would make. So I began this procedure where I would make glass parts, I would blow glass or grind and polish glass, accumulate parts, kind of inventory, according to sketches that I was working on, and then I would deliver drawings of the metal parts that I wanted to go with these things to this metal prototype company, and they’d fabricate them for me, and then I’d take all the parts back to my studio and assemble the pieces. And, of course, I went around town getting electrical supplies and so on. So everything worked. I had a nice group of lamps, and they actually in a funny way looked like Venini product because it was their colors, their materials, but the style was really my own. And I remember Santillana came in for a critique one day, near the end of the time that I was staying there, and I had this room all set up with the lights on and everything, and it looked pretty good. He walked around the room for a while, and he obviously was amused by it, he was smiling and he liked the pieces and he turned them off and on and he was playing with them and then he started smacking his forehead just, ‘These are mad, these are mad pieces,’ and he had these English expressions, I think he learned his English in England. But he just kept on saying, ‘These are mad pieces, it’ll never work for Venini,’ and it’s right, it never worked for Venini. So, in a way, without realizing it, I didn’t pay enough attention to Venini’s style and try to incorporate myself in that sense. All I did was I went there and I went to Italian showrooms and looked at fantastic contemporary Italian design in the time I was there, which was 1972. And I was highly influenced by the playful, energetic quality of Italian design. And all my pieces were a response to it, and they were lamps that worked. So I thought, ‘Well, Venini might be able to do this.’ But as it turned out, it wasn’t Venini, it didn’t look like Venini. And despite the diversity of all the efforts of artists who worked with Venini, there is a Venini look. A very definite Venini look. And my look was not the Venini look, and if you take a survey of all the things that I made there—I don’t have pictures of it all. Sorry, but I wasn’t that organized then and a lot of those pieces just were sold, but the pieces were just too crazy for Santillana. He liked them, he kept a few, and they tried to produce a couple of ‘em, and I don’t know how many they made of anything. Their communications back and forth to me in the States when I first came back were not that great. But the upshot of it was that I sent maybe 15 or 20 pieces back to the States. One chess table and all the chessmen, and a glass table. And a bunch of lamps, and some vases. First I sent some work to Rome, to the American Embassy in Rome, and I had a show there. And then I sent it all back to Boston, and within three or four months I had a show in New York at the Theo Portnoy Gallery on 57th street. I also had a show with the same lamps at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] in Cambridge. It was really the basis for my beginning relationships with galleries and exhibitions, because I knew that I wanted to do that, but I didn’t have any experience before I went away to live in Europe. So overall it was quite good, it was quite good. I just wish I had it better documented, and I also wish I had kept some of those pieces. My friend Otto Piene—he’s a German artist who teaches at MIT— bought a couple of the best lamps from the Venini pieces. And I had borrowed them from him for my show at the Renwick [Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Museum of Art, Washington D.C.] a couple years ago. Well now I’m back in Amesbury [Massachusetts], it’s time to go get the kids up and make breakfast. So I’ll turn this on again later. [sound of tape stopping]
Okay, back in the car again, headed up to the studio, had to do a little work in the office before I could leave. And, let’s see, where was I? The work at Venini—I made a lot of things with tripod and odd symmetry. The tripods came out of an interest in Shang bronzes because of those very interesting forms, you know, like they used the gourd shape or other natural forms as a basis for their bronze forms. And maybe they even used actual fruits to cast the bronze with that method of casting that they had, a little bit like a ceramic shell casting, really interesting technology that was developed in the most crude ways, but very sophisticated results. But I always liked those shapes, especially that tripod form, and, of course, it became very popular with a lot of ceramicists during the seventies. And they’re still making kind of pseudo-oriental work, a lot of American crafts people. But the tripod form, to me, was interesting because of the way it affected the symmetry of the object. Because many times when you view a vase, especially a Greek vase, it’s bi-symmetrical, even though it’s a piece in the round it’s kind of a bi-symmetrical object. And the bronze—the tripod form comes from—it really does make you view it in the round, it makes you aware of the other side of the piece in a different way. Now one of the things that the Greeks did on their vases that make you look around the shape is to put a drawing on it which doesn’t stop. Sometimes they do stop and they’re very localized, almost like a decal just stuck right on there. But in many cases they run all around the piece and it sort of makes your eye go around the piece and be more aware of the volume that you’re looking at. Well the tri-symmetry appealed to me, and I used that in the lamps, but then I would combine it with, say, a single object on top, going in one direction, which isn’t exactly a symmetry of one, because it’s a dimensional volume. But sometimes I would use a bi-symmetrical piece on top of this tripod, or sometimes incorporating the tripod, kind of blending it into the single or double symmetry. So it was exercise in composition with form, the lamp project. And, of course, the color, and besides the form, so I was able to get a lot of interesting combinations. And those pieces were design exercises for me, because most of my work deals with people, I try to be expressive in the work and try to make a piece about something. But those pieces were not so much about situations in life or human emotions, or something like I would make a mural about or a drawing about. They were really design objects, and they come from a kind of vision that I would have of an object in space. In other words if someone said, ‘Imagine a room of the future, a living room of the future,’ meaning something from the next century, kind of science fiction-like, then I might come up with these ideas for shapes, thinking about something that was alien to our present knowledge and yet comes from the history of man. Because nothing is really new, nothing is really invented, it’s kind of spit back out again after taking in a lot. Imagination is really based on knowledge, fact, and has to do with a person’s ability to assimilate that and make it come out again in a way that makes sense to them. Boy, I got off the track. This talking like this, just extemporaneously, I knew it was going to get like this, I better get back onto the Venini idea. I really liked working in Italy, living there and being influenced by the way of life in Venice, and then coming back to America, I started my teaching job at Massachusetts College of Art [Boston] in 1974, right when I got back, within days of getting back to America. And after two years of teaching, building a studio, and starting a department—a glass department, and all of the things that that entails, I was really ready to go back to Europe. And so I began to write to some French companies and eventually I began working at Daum. By the invitation of Jacques Daum, who was the president at the time I started working with that company. And that’s been going on ever since, from 1975 till now I’ve been working at Daum on a very regular basis, and it all came from that experience in Italy. This is a bumpy road here [sounds of tires on road audible]. I wonder what this tape’s gonna sound like? I think that the experience at Venini influenced my working patterns and influenced them mainly because I got used to being in industry. It was a new experience for me in one way, my first experience in industry was at the Fostoria Glass Company in West Virginia—Moundsville, West Virginia, when I went there to collect materials with Roland Jahn, since Fostoria had offered to donate materials and cash to the Philadelphia College of Art to build a studio, and I happened to be the one that built it. So I went there to the factory and the factory was kind of overwhelming and very interesting, because there on a large scale was every single thing that we needed to work with to make our ideas real. And the same thing happened when I walked into the Venini factory years later. There was this fantastic facility with 18 colors all hot and ready to use. All kinds of people running around and doing jobs related to the making of this art. And very serious but very playful, in their attitudes. And really supportive, they were so supportive. At Venini I’d be making something, and somebody, you know, one of the blowers, not even a master, just somebody that was around the factory would come up to me and try to give me an impromptu critique. They’d tell me the color combination was too harsh, or they would tell me—maybe they thought a certain form ought to be a little shorter or something like that. And they would just give me their opinion, but it was obvious that they cared about things like that. And that wouldn’t have happened at Fenton [Fenton Art Glass Company, Williamstown, West Virginia], where I work now. It happens at Daum occasionally, but more with the design people or the people in administration, certainly, than the workers. Some of them it does but it may also be like them being in their place, because as a young student working in Venini, I didn’t occupy the same kind of [sounds of car] place in their minds, maybe, that I do now cause I’m older than many of the workers; not many of them, but a lot of them. So maybe that affects their relationship with me. But anyway the Italians always came right up to me and told me what they thought, and they were extremely supportive. And that was a help, so it opened my eyes to the possibilities of working in industry. And I’ve realized a lot of my ideas because of the facilities and the possibilities with an industrial facility. [sound of tape pausing]
Another thing about working in Venini is I was never really all that hot on being a glassblower, per se. I can blow glass, and I still do, but I’ve always been interested in making use of the better skills of other people, and, of course, at Venini, I had access to some of the best masters in the world, so having them make one of my drawings come to life was an absolute thrill. And then if I try to make it myself, and it came out all clunky and kind of, you know, whopperjawed, not really my thing that I had in mind, I was never satisfied, so I didn’t see any percentage in trying to do it myself. If I could have it made by somebody else, it was an ace. So I got to the point where I could make a lot of things, and I can still make things, but to me it’s not that important that the actual blowing is done by me. I wouldn’t ask them to make a drawing the way I make it, and I think drawing is really where my best talent lies, and also in just thinking up things to make. But the [background noise audible] blowers there were just so darn good, they could make anything I could draw. And of course that led to eventually working with Lino [Tagliapietra] and working with Ben Moore and Rich Royal, who are able to make things that I just can’t make by myself or even if I hire a couple of people to come and blow glass with me. So that frees me up, and lets me make more of my ideas. So I have sketchbooks full of ideas, if I could afford it I’d make 10 times more things than I do, but most of the things that I make are [sound of car stopping] limited by my resources at the time, by what has sold and what I can afford to continue to make. [sound of tape pausing]
[sound of DD’s car in background] I believe I was on the subject of things that I learned, things that affected my work at Venini, and the reason I say it like that is because I was thinking about what somebody like Dick [Richard] Marquis got out of it, what somebody like Ben Moore got out of it. Because really, if you study the work that they do now, and think about how it might have been influenced by their time at Venini, you can see one or another things. Like in Dick Marquis’s work itself there’s a lot of Italian look, style, and of course the murrini technique is really a basis for a good deal of his work. And his imagery is incorporated within that technique. See, that’s the thing I think—the interesting strength in his work is that he really does give his own stem to such a strong, traditional format. And with Ben, well Ben actually spent a long time at Venini, he spent longer than any American I know, maybe Willson spent longer, but he made use of the cane decorative techniques in these sort of fifties and sixties combinations of color and style, and recombined the new versions of that tradition. But I never took up murrini or cane, and I didn’t really take up a glassblowing technique per se. And until I began to work with Lino, I don’t think my work had any of that sort of frill or that sort of, you know, I’m not sure what you would call the other, the fifties and sixties Italian style as opposed to the ornate, hand-working techniques that are so clearly Venetian in glassblowing. But anyway, I didn’t pick up on that style, I didn’t adapt it into my working vocabulary. So I think that’s one of the things that makes my friends and I different in our interpretation or the influences of that experience. And of course, anybody’s gonna be different that goes in there. [sound of tape pausing] In working with Lino, at first, we just talked about this idea, because we had seen that show of Roman glass and both had favorite pieces of the show, and they coincided pretty often, the favorite pieces. And he had helped me make some things as a favor, I never had hired him, but he had helped me make some things as a favor now and then. And then we talked about making some pieces together, where it wasn’t just him making me a vase that I had drawn, because that’s what the situation allowed, but we thought we might try to set up a situation and really just make some things together. See what they were like. So first we talked about it on paper, I made drawings, he corrected my drawings in some ways, meaning he would say, ‘Well let’s try this [inaudible],’ add a few lines to the drawing and then I would play around with it some more based on his input, and eventually I arrived at some drawings that were really a composite of ideas—and a real collaboration. Then, he and the other people we hired executed the pieces in hot glass, and I participated in that to a degree, but I also stand back enough to watch the process and really see the piece developing and step in and say, ‘Well, let’s try this,’ you know, right on the spot, rather than waiting until the piece is cool on the shelf and then deciding something else could be different. So that worked out pretty well. And then, with these pieces that we’d been making, which we’re calling Roman vases, because that was the original, influential body of work, the pieces were then sent back to me, we made them in Italy, we made some at Fratelli Donna, Murano, and we also made [recording cuts off]
[I’m not in the] car anymore, I’m in the basement studio in my house in Amesbury. Worked here for seven or eight years, in this studio, and now it’s just kind of empty, cause all the machinery’s out, up at the other place. And then I had a rented studio too, for my architectural work in larger things that I gave that up when we bought the other place. The other place is huge. It’s gonna be a good studio. So, Vasi Romani, is what we called those new pieces. And working with Lino is really kind of a lot different from the other pieces that I’ve made, not just because it’s a collaboration, but the concept is a collaboration. So I’m used to making vases, I don’t know how vase series I made, but we’re considering a show now, and in talking to a few people about this show, I wanna have 20 years of my vases. That’s a lot of vases. But there are a lot of series in there, I usually don’t make that many pieces in a series. Anyway, Lino and I started at Fratelli Donna back in February of ’89, and his brother’s got some connections with this particular factory, so we were able to rent some time, and hire a couple of their guys to help us, and we blew glass. And made the beginnings of these pieces, after looking at the drawings we had been working on. And then the pieces were sent back, and I worked on ‘em here in the studio, in Amesbury, and then sent them down to West Virginia, to Fenton, where I acid polish everything I make. And it gets acid polished. So we worked on the acid, I mean, we did that down there, my assistants and I, there’s a guy Cecile Valentine, does all my acid work. And then I sent the pieces back to Amesbury and we’ve been enameling, as I talk I’m working on the enamel painting of one of these pieces. I’ve been titling each piece with a reference to some of the architectural imagery that is abstracted in the scenes on the vases. These things are very deliberately scenic, and they have to do with my—it’s kind of an interpretation of feelings about the landscape in Italy. Have you ever taken a train ride through Italy? Or driven around in a car a lot there, it’s kind of an interesting difference. It’s a lot like France, I guess, and other parts of Europe, you could say. But there’s a—and this sounds trite, but kind of a softness to the quality of light or something, I’m not sure what it is. And there’s a tonality too to the landscape that I’ve been trying to get across in these drawings. In some ways, I mean, you could look at one of these things and say, ‘It’s a souvenir,’ it’s a souvenir of Italy. I’m not making pictures of Piazza San Marco [Venice, Italy], but who knows, I might do San Marco. Once I was thinking of making a souvenir of Niagara Falls [New York/Ontario], but that’s another story. [sound of tape pausing]
Actually, Niagara Falls, a damn powerful image. It really is; it’s hypnotic. You stand on the edge, and you look down, and—I gotta get this vase in the kiln before breakfast. Time to get the kids up. You stand on the edge of Niagara Falls, and you watch that volume of water falling over it—it’s just powerful as hell. [sound of tape stopping]
[sound of DD’s car in background] There’s been a bit of an evolution in the paintings on the vases, mainly because this is a large series for me. I’m not used to having more than, let’s see, 15, 20. I remember I made some vases, the bird vases, in about ’81 or so. They had 28 pieces, I believe, in the series. Well, this series with Lino, we’re up to 28 now, and there’s still more good pieces to work on. And that’s also part of the whole thing of working with Lino is—he’s like an automaton; when he gets going he can just produce. You know, he had to produce. For years and years he was, you know—his demand from the owners of the factories that he worked for, that he be productive. And he is, I mean, he’s so fast. Just one thing after another. So, there are a lot of pieces to draw on and decorate, but the original theme that I began to work with, this architectural theme, as it began in my sketchbooks, there’s a certain look, and then if you look at vase number one, let’s say vase number 15 and vase number 28, you can definitely see changes occurring and there’s a kind of incorporation of an image, maybe there’re some recurring elements in the images. I hope so, I mean, it’s obvious. I hope it’s obvious. But the things that develop throughout the series are, you know, that adds another dimension to it, to me. And it adds to the continuing interest that I have in the pieces. I deliberately excluded any kind of fussy detail, at first. And there was a really—I made a very strong effort to be abstract, not to go much towards realism, in the depiction of these buildings. And what was there is a kind of suggestion of the relationship of shapes in space, of these blockish shapes. But if you look at the skyline of an Italian city, especially an Italian city, there’s a nice kind of simplicity to the form, and yet there’s a complexity to the combinations of forms, and that’s what I wanted to get across. And as they develop I have incorporated more and more details, let’s say, a railing, the balustrades or—I hadn’t done anything ornate like, some kind of cherubs adorning a doorway or these—big heads or animals or anything like that. I don’t really want to get figurative at all with these. I’m excluding the figure, and I’m excluding any kind of vehicles. One has a boat on it, just the tip of a boat sticking out behind, but the others have no allusion to the people. And, in fact, the scale’s all wrong. A window might be in scale, a window might appear to be six inches big, and on the same building, just a short distance away, something that’s six feet big. So there’s a deliberate sort of a scale adjustment occurring, to take it away from reality and move it more into fantasy. It’s also a pretty playful series, for me. You know, usually I play around a lot. My development, the drawings, these bird vases and made the drawings, that kind of exercise in the abstraction of the form of a bird, then you break down the bird to its basic elements, showing the wing, the head, the tail, beak, the eyes, so on, kind of come up with a list of parts. And then take a lot of liberties in the rendition of these, in the rendering of these parts, see? Make real exaggerations, proportional combinations. Well, that’s sort of what I’m doing with architecture here. Architecture is the theme, and the buildings are the objects, but the buildings have a lot of leeway for change, and what’s interesting is that they don’t look as abstract as, say, an animal. You know, you expect an animal to have certain proportions, but buildings have such a vast possibility for alteration in reality, that to see something that’s really stretched out and long, or windows that are totally oddball shapes, it’s not so unusual. It just happens, it happens anyway, so it doesn’t strike the viewer as unusual. What abstracts these shapes the most, I find, is the way I wrap them around a form and parts that appear, say, from one view of the vase, a part that appears to be just sort of an oddball shape, just a point of something red sticking around the corner, as you turn the piece and look at it you realize that it’s actually a logical shape bending around the curve of the vessel. So [sounds of car getting louder] that’s been an interesting development in the pieces as well. Also, I must say that this isn’t something that I tried to make as a strong statement, these pieces. They are playful in that sense, too. Although they’re not completely decorative, I don’t see my work as decorative, actually. I suppose it is, and I suppose that somebody can take one of my vases and put it on the shelf, in some designer living room, and it would occupy the space in its own interesting way, like any other work of my contemporaries. But in making a series of something, that’s kind of an exercise in drawing, or an attempt to run an idea out, beyond the first thought, see. Suppose I’m drawing in my sketchbook, and I get some idea. Well I draw it, and maybe I’ll draw it again, to kind of think about it a little bit more. So it’s always a thinking process, the process is slowly realizing an idea. [tape drops out followed by loud sound of car] And by realizing I mean that it’s becoming an object, because a lot of time I’m drawing with the idea in mind that there’s going to be a three dimensional object made. And that’s why I say slowly, see, a drawing actually happens very quickly, and when the drawing is the final product, then I suppose it doesn’t become so quick. I’ve been working on one drawing now for two years, or a year and a half, I don’t know maybe, it seems like two years. But the drawing [tape drops out for second] is the piece, but when I’m drawing to make something, I just draw so that I can understand the process of making it a little better. [sound of tape pausing] Lino has all these ideas about making things that come from his years of being a master glassblower. At first I suppose he had the challenge of just making everything that is part of the master’s vocabulary. So when he won the golden jacks it was because he could make a particular thing the best. And it was a thing of his invention, but it also was using techniques that are very difficult and that are traditional. And then he interpreted those techniques and made something of his own. So Lino’s ideas about design often come from technique, because he’s very process-oriented. So a lot of the things he designed for Oggetti, for instance, are based on technique, and they’re beautiful things, really beautiful things. And very, very Italian looking, very Italian looking, [sounds of car] meaning traditional in a sense, with a twist. And if you go into the contemporary section of the museum in Murano, the glass museum in Murano [Venice Glass Museum, Murano, Italy] you know there’s a contemporary section and a historical section, well, I don’t know, contemporary’s also historical now, if they put it the museum it’s history. But still [loud sounds of car], in the contemporary section Lino must have more pieces than any other master. And a lot of them are his design, or else his execution of somebody else’s design. But he has a lot of ideas of his own, that we’ve discussed and employed in this collaborative work. So, as we—[sounds of car and traffic getting louder] as the drawing is being made, he’s saying, ‘Let’s try this, I like this, I like that,’ and he likes Saturns a lot, and he likes these sorta oddball sixties-style things. Like a bubble with the hole in the side of it instead of on top. Or that business where you turn the bubble on its side and you make it using some technique that can only be done when the bubble is oriented one way on the pipe or the punty, and then you punty it on the other side and flip it over and the piece becomes kind of a sideways piece, and, especially for somebody who knows how to blow glass, it’s kind of a mind boggling thing to look at, you say, ‘Wow did he do that?’ And there’s a lot of that that appeals to Lino because it’s a challenge to the master. So much of his input to the work that we’d been doing comes from that kind of a desire to go beyond what, I think, everybody else can do. On the other hand, a lot of these things are quite simple in design, when you look at them, the form is pretty simple. And the decoration isn’t lavish. We’d been adding handles, putting on some kind of Baroque-style decoration, embellishing the handle form or the main form of the vessel. But they’re basically pretty simple objects. Now, on my side, we’re making a piece to prepare for the drawing process, that’s what the motivation is. Keep it simple so that the drawing stands out, it has a format, that’s what I do with a lot of my work, try to make it a classic kind of form that’s my own interpretation of the classic form, and then it leaves room to be drawn upon, as a kind of working format. [thudding sound—sound of tape pausing] So while these collaborative pieces of ours have been made with a very Italian look, we’ve been trying to keep them simple, in that range. And I think some of them are working that way. Usually I can’t evaluate my own work, while it’s happening, too easily. I need time to stand back from it. Now this series has been going on long enough so that I have feelings about the first pieces that I’m able to use in the next ones that I’m making, the ones that are coming up. That’s handy, that’s really handy. I’ll pull in here, turn this—[tape cuts off]
Dale asked me, ‘How could I collaborate with Lino?’ Now, I don’t know, I mean, he’s collaborated with more people than I have, in a way. I’ve had people working with me for a long time as my assistants, but collaboration is something else, collaboration really requires input. But it’s not necessarily 50-50, I mean, that’s not really the point, to make it absolutely even. The point is to come up with some good work, and the collaboration means a combination of efforts directed towards the same end, and I do feel it’s a true collaboration with Lino. And I’ve worked with other people in collaboration before, like architects, but most of the people that help me make my work aren’t really collaborating in the same way. So I’m not sure—Dale doesn’t view his work with Lino as a collaboration in the same way that I do, I’m sure of that, cause we talked about it. I believe he sees it more as Lino executing his thoughts, and [pause for 8 seconds] maybe that’s—I know Lino’s happy to work with Dale, we’ve talked about that too, there’s a mutual respect there [pause for 6 seconds], but the work with Lino, I feel, is something that we’ve just begun. This is the first attempt to try to come up with something that’s really, totally our own and beyond the work that either of us would do independently. And that’s something that will take a while to see, to evaluate. We’re not in any particular hurry. [sound of tape pausing]
What do you suppose motivates artists to make things? It’s because you can, because you want to, because you have the desire to do it and the opportunity is there, and the ability’s there, so you do it. It’s a, really it’s kind of a pursuit of pleasure, it’s an activity that gives you a good feeling. It’s really what gets you to keep on going, and then you have to be lucky and have people want what you make, so that you can go beyond that. Sometimes I wish I had a kind of master plan to make it more business-like, so I wasn’t always unsure of the next thing that would come along, the next job that would come along that would make it possible for me to realize a few ideas that I have. But who wants to know the future? Who really wants to know? Doesn’t matter, it’s gonna happen anyway, may as well just do what you can and enjoy it. [sound of tape pausing] I suppose this collaborative work with Lino now is a result of my living and working in Venice and the work at Venini. When I lived there I didn’t know Lino, but I did know his brother-in-law, and his brother-in-law is Checco Ongaro—that’s Lina’s, you know Lino’s wife is named Lina. Lina’s brother is Checco, and Checco helped me a lot with my pieces while I was at Venini. He would usually be the one to make my drawings, if they were more complicated pieces. If it was just a wine glass or something fairly simple, then there were two or three other men who would make the pieces for designs for factory production. I guess I didn’t mention those, I mean that was something apart from the lamps. The lamps were my main concentration, but I did try to make several wine glass designs, vases, and things like that. [sound of tape pausing]
Lino’s an unusual person—in the context of that group of Italian glassblowers—on Murano because he’s left the fold, in a way, and you can tell just by last time I was there I walked around for three days or so by myself because Lino and Lina went to Copenhagen. They just let me have their house, and I stayed there and drew for a while, and I walked around, and such a small place,naturally you see everybody out on the street all the time, that anybody that you meet once, you’re likely to see 10 times in a few days. So I’d bump into people and they’d be talking to me about Lino, saying they’re sort of worried about him because he quit his job [sound of car], see? And he left the security of that situation. Well I think Lino’s likely to be a little nervous about it too, now and then, but he’s got enough going for him, and enough confidence in that to give him the courage to leave the situation. But it’s rare, you don’t hear about that very much in that tight little community. [tape pauses] And he’s very much in demand these days. You know, he’s been the main maker of things at the French glass center called CIRVA [International Center of Glass and Plastic Arts] in Marseilles. And he goes over there, maybe, for three or four days at a time, every other month, and they just published a little brochure of the art of CIRVA, and I would say that nine-tenths of the work pictured in the brochure [loud sound of gear shift] says, ‘This piece is by such-and-such an artist but made by Lino Tagliapietra.’ And of course he’s been working with Dale, working with me, and he’s starting some new things in Murano with this Japanese company that he’s dealing with, so I don’t think he’s feeling too out on a limb, he’s got enough security from these different projects that he’ll probably last a while longer before he goes back to regular employment with a boss and everything. But it certainly isn’t the normal thing for one of the Italian masters on Murano to do. [sound of tape stopping]
[no longer in car] Well, it should be interesting to read what you had to say about all this, Paul. To see how you feel, any of these Italian experiences have affected the work of the American artists that you choose to write about. I’ve been wondering—a lot of my students over the years ask me where they can go to have an experience like that, and for a while Italy was pretty open, and then for a while it was kind of closed. Now I’ve been back there a couple times recently, and I found no resistance really to having me come in on the part of a few places that I checked out, or maybe that was Lino who provided the entrée. But I’ve been thinking about the same situation for a good student who really could benefit from an opportunity like that, and they also ask me about France, but the situation I have in France is more of a design position, and you don’t get to blow—I did blow glass, but that really isn’t the emphasis of it. I suppose if somebody really wanted to, I might be able to set up a situation and go blow glass, but you’re not about to learn from a master in the same way that you would in Italy, in a factory in France. The Swedish factories all have a situation that’s like that with apprenticeships and Orrefors [Orrefors (glassworks), Småland, Sweden] has a school, which you probably know about, learn techniques. A lot of people go there and benefit from that. [tape pauses] For what I learned [sound in background], from my experience in the factory, is first of all, that the drawing, being the first step in the realization of the object, the drawing really worked in that situation. So it emphasized that method of working for me. And I also learned to not limit myself too much. I feel very comfortable trying a lot of things at once, and I think that comes from that experience in the factory, because working with so many different people who are all involved in a lot of different things—it influenced me to think about a lot of different things myself, and I still do. That’s why I don’t just make vases, I don’t just make wall pieces. I feel better when I’m thinking about several different things at once. And I think that’s a direct result of all that industrial experience.
[sound of tape stopping]
Well, it can’t be more than a couple of minutes left on this tape, I’m gonna sign off, it’s probably more than you bargained for anyway. And I’m gonna make a copy of it too, so I can keep it. I’ll be really interested to see what you have to say, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.
So long now.