Jack Storms’ very uncommon glass art stars in a big show at Jim Miller Gallery in Carmel.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
As one of just three standout “cold glass” craftsmen in the country, Jack Storms is already a rare enough artist. (Most glass is super-heated and blown into shape, or cast in sand.) But he’s the only one anywhere shaping them into life-sized bats for legendary ballplayers like first-ballot-Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees.
It’s only appropriate Storms has come to craft pieces for stars of the diamond, since many of his works look like they are filled with diamonds (and are priced kinda like it too). This weekend, he will be in Carmel at the Jim Miller Gallery to debut all sorts of jewels, including a new 10-inch cube with a floating, vibrantly colored core; his wind-inspired “Aerial” collection; elaborate wine and champagne glasses; and “Viviovo,” a perfect egg shaped with help from the Fibonacci Sequence.
On a recent spring day, Storms stands in the Miller Gallery holding a deep, flat teardrop-shaped piece from the Aerial assemblage. He rotates it so that a stack of inlaid dichroic glass – picture a core of rainbow-colored glass that almost looks like a kaleidoscope heart – flashes throughout the optic glass around it.
His use of flawless optic glass – usually found in scientific instruments – allows light to move purely, revealing the nuggets of color inside. Turn it one way, and see a nucleus, like a preserved flower, trapped inside. Turn it another, and it all shimmers like a princess cut diamond (and the flower disappears).
“It’s like the sky before the fireworks,” he says. “It needs tension so when the lights explode there’s that contrast.”
Storms chooses subjects to remind people to look for beauty in everyday places. But whether he’s sculpting a tear drop or a golf tee, his precision and endurance are anything but ordinary.
He starts by cutting and stacking hundreds of slivers of finely cut dichroic glass and gluing them with transparent epoxy. He then layers optic or crystal glass up around them to create the floating core look, and sculpts it all into a given shape on a self-designed lathe, which is a potter’s wheel of sorts with a flat grinding surface that spins as Storms holds the glass at different angles.
His process simultaneously demands technical left-brain thinking (tracking and arranging hundreds of pieces) and artistic right-side creating (to intuit the final shape), but he balances the two without diagrams – often for 14 hours a day.
Storms left his position managing Toland Sand’s glass studio in Carmel Valley for a solo career in 2004.
“No one was attacking [the craft],” he says. “There was no dialogue with it.”
The degree of difficulty at play is part of that. A small crack or a touch too much pressure on the lathe can ruin weeks of physically taxing gluing and grinding. “If cold glass was easier, more people would do it,” he says. “There’s little room for error, but the result is visually perfect.“
He uses the Fibonacci Sequence – in which the last two numbers in a sequence are always added, for example 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5 – to design the scale and the number of pieces he embeds.
“There must be an equation for the number of colors and shapes that can be seen from one side,” he says. “Every time you move it, or the light changes, you see something different.”
Viewing Storms’ wine glass sculptures from the side reveals rainbow ribbons. When the glass is turned as if to drink, it blushes a pink hue as if it were full. The gesture transforms a common motion into a lingering art experience.
“I want to pull in everybody that knows what a wine glass looks like,” Storms says. “If I make something too abstract I lose an audience… So I use a cutting edge medium to make organic and familiar things.”
Storms was modeling a martini glass when he wondered how it might look with a thicker stem, and realized he was halfway to a golf tee. Storms donated one for a silent auction at Jeter’s January celebrity golf tournament in Tampa.
Soon he was commissioned to create a 3,000-piece glass bat for Jeter to honor number 2’s 3,000th hit. He plans to make 100 more to benefit Jeter’s Turn2Foundation.
The 32-inch bat started out a 3-foot glass brick, inlaid with Storms’ labyrinth of glass. Glowing, striped and futuristic, it looks charged with energy – like Arthur’s sword from the Lady of the Lake. Instead of mythology, though, it took 10 months of planning and three of sculpting.
Storms’ flame-shaped Phoenix and the curves of his champagne bottles are labor intensive, but also the most fascinating to him. Small moves on the lathe affect how the light goes through them, keeping Storms on his toes the entire time. But that doesn’t mean they’re his most prized.
“The last piece is my favorite,” he says, “After six to eight weeks the reward is so stunning I become fixated, making sure it doesn’t have any scratches, polishing it all the way up to the time it goes out.”
THE JACK STORMS EXHIBITION opens with a free reception 1-5pm Saturday, June 2, at Jim Miller Gallery, Ocean and Dolores, Carmel. 625-0425, www.jackstorms.com