Jamie Harris: Color Vision
Glass artist and designer Jamie Harris specializes in custom lighting and sculpture commissions, his work appearing in galleries and sought out by architects and designers. A graduate of Brown University who has studied at the likes of Rhode Island School of Design and the Corning Museum of Glass, Harris also produces a line of tableware and objects. Here, he discusses the passions, processes, and projects propelling his Brooklyn, New York studio.
What compelled you to pursue glass as a medium?
I was always interested in craft, into making. I came to glass from a ceramics and pottery background, and my initial love of it came from its pure physicality. Glassblowing is an athletic and balletic activity, a complicated whirling of coordinated motions and teamwork. As I was finding my voice, I focused on the exploration of complex technique and skill, a background that still manifests itself in my designs today. Somewhere along my journey I became fascinated with the light that glass emits while glowing and twirling and melting as you work it at 2100 degrees. That fascination fueled my current journey into color studies, into exploring how glass transmits, reflects, and absorbs color. It’s also fueled my exploration as a designer, using the intrinsic nature of the material to illuminate and transform light.
What do you think unites all your disparate works?
My work has a foundational basis in the classic Italian sensitivity of glass, an elegant and refined technique, which I’ve clashed with a modernist and sometimes minimalist approach to the material. I use traditional techniques from glassblowing history and re-appropriate them. In my lighting designs, for example, I tend to work with simple geometric shapes— spheres, discs —that I subtly alter with asymmetry. I am entranced by the contrast between materials that emphasize craftsmanship— metalwork with subtle brushed textures against smooth, blown-glass curves and sharp-carved and polished glass surfaces. I want my work to be dramatic but also approachable, livable.
What are some of your newest projects?
I’m currently working on a number of pieces for the Crown Sydney, a hotel and condo development in Australia. One of the most interesting is a 15’ x 5’ triptych wall sculpture, an artwork in which I created a unique cast-glass sculpture which serves as the basis for manipulated digital photography, which is then captured in large glass prints. It’s a merging of various techniques in my work. I also recently completed a custom chandelier for the Moxy NYC Chelsea. This piece represents one of the specialties of our studio, where we took the sketches from the interior designer for the project—Rockwell Group—solved engineering riddles, and transformed the idea into an organic, large-scale chandelier that merges our aesthetic with the client’s vision. Another recently completed project is a diptych of large cast-glass sculptures made for the Stony Brook University Cancer Center on Long Island.
You planned to unveil several products at ICFF, including Nested Disc Sconces and the Mobile Lilypad Chandelier. What were their inspirations?
They are both offshoots of a similar line of thinking, playing with truncated simple geometric objects in different ways. Nested Disc Sconces juxtaposes multiple stacks of objects along a rigid and formalistic metal framework; it plays with space and light, lines and shadows. The new Mobile Lilypad Chandelier takes my popular Lilypad shape—itself a disc with altered geometry— and balances multiple elements in a Calder-esque framework, where the illusion of heaviness is offset by the balance of chandelier. It encapsulates much of my vision: setting tension and drama against lightness and airiness.
During the height of the pandemic, what was life like in the studio? Were there new sources of creativity?
We found ways to stay productive, even as our fabrication studio was closed for three months. I feel fortunate that even during this difficult time, I had many new projects come in, and we were able to concentrate on design renderings and client presentations. I also found time to concentrate on a new artistic series of works on paper, collages made out of lighting gels that allowed me to explore ideas of color and shape that are reflected in my cast sculptures.
As we transition from lockdown life, what is bringing you the most joy?
After having not been able to be in the glassblowing studio for so long, I am reveling in the pureness of making again, of sculpting, working with my hands, working with my team. Studio life is different during this COVID-19 time, but it feels so meaningful to be working and creating again.
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