Brooklyn-based artist Andrew Hughes began blowing glass in 1997, and hasn't looked back since. These days, Andrew makes his work at the UrbanGlass studio. He answered a few questions for us about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making his stunning pieces.
How did you get started in glass?
Oddly enough, my dad subscribed to Glass Quarterly, and in the back there was a list of schools. I was always curious about how it worked, and I wound up going to the one place that you could go to that accepted people under 18 [Horizons, now defunct]. It was quite pivotal for me to go to this place. My teacher was Jordana Korsen, who was amazing. She was always so positive, like “Just do it! Gather up! Go for it!” Then I went to RISD with the expectation of being a glass major.
How would you describe the work you do now?
The work I’m most interested in making is works that speak to the materiality of glass itself, the sort of mysterious nature of the material that accentuates its often contradictory dualities: liquid/solid, warm/cold, all that stuff.
Would you say your Prism Candlesticks are an example of that?
The Prism candlesticks definitely fall under that. A big influence of the Prism Candlesticks was the Light and Space Movement, of the 1960s and 1970s, specifically DeWain Valentine. And Larry Bell. DeWain Valentine mostly works with polyurethane, Larry Bell did-- and does-- do a lot of work with glass. They’re really interested by the phenomenon of the material itself and what that has to do with environment and experience and its interaction with the people around it. I find it fun to use all of those “high” concepts but apply them to an everyday object, something that implies utility. It’s important to me to make something that can be used in some way.
When you design an object like the Prism Candlesticks, do you have a very clear idea in your mind of what you want to achieve?
And then you’re just working towards that mental image?
Well, anytime you’re working with multiple polished glass surfaces, there’s still a lot of discovery. I wasn’t sure what the angles [of the Prism Candlesticks] would do, in terms of reflection and refraction. Once you get interior reflections, all the imperfections start popping out and really showing. It’s interesting, how things appear and disappear. The glass reveals itself as you’re making it.
What would you consider to be an imperfection?
Everything. All of it. Nothing I touch is ever "perfect." It’s an unattainable thing you’re striving for. Everything’s a compromise. You never quite get there, right?
What’s your favorite process in the studio/favorite project you've worked on?
My favorite thing is probably these Radial Grid Vases, where I’ll carve a grid pattern into the glass, and then reheat it, and inflate it, and it turns into something else.
Oh, that’s how they're made? I thought they were carved post-inflation.
Yeah, right! But that would be exhaustive.
Well, I think a lot of the things you do could be put into that category.
Being exhaustive? [Laughs.] I’m very into the process. Very process-oriented. That’s why coldworking is really enjoyable to me. And it was not something I could do until I was thirty, I had no patience for it.
Why are the Radial Grid Vases your favorite?
Taking something relatively mundane and bringing it into the cold shop, introducing another element to it, and then putting it back in the hot shop, and having it be yet another thing is like a metamorphosis. And then, it gets coldworked again after it’s inflated, of course. It [involves] all the skills I’ve gathered over the years. It takes all of those things to make this one object.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.