Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Austin Glassblowing Artist Aaron Gross!

A fixture on the Austin glassblowing scene since 2003, Gross has interests in both traditional glassblowing techniques like 12th to14th Century Venetian styles and those that are more contemporary. His wide range of glassblowing skills is evident at his South Congress Avenue gallery and showroom, Austin Art Glass. We asked Aaron some questions to get to know his background, his creative process and learn more about the products he makes:

His love affair with glassblowing began during college, while attending the California College of Art. First enrolled in the sculpture and ceramics program, he soon felt himself attracted to watching the glassblowers at work, citing the “urgency” to the art and the “high level of concentration” as what drew him in. Always humble, when asked when he realized he had a talent for glassblowing, Gross replied that he’s still not sure if he has a talent for it, but that he just loves doing it.

His artistic vision is simple, yet honest:

"While some people see glass as fragile, I see it as just the opposite, and it is the permanence of glass that interests and satisfies me. As a medium, it is the most archival, and I like to believe that some of the objects that I have created may be around forever."His reverence for this antique craft is obvious, and it’s in fact the actual process and ancient tradition of glassblowing that he likes most about glass. His love of glass as a material goes even farther than just the process, adding that glass itself is so versatile: “it can be blown, cast, molded, carved, etched, and spun.”

Austin Art Glass got its start in 2003, when Gross, after being a glassblower for other artists for 20 years, decided it was time to work on his own creations and teach glassblowing “without any boundaries”. His team is small, but dedicated. He handles the glassblowing, teaching and shop tech (possibly the most important job, as he added that “something is always trying to break in the glass shop.”) His wife Lacy takes care of everything outside of the glassblowing studio: bookwork, sales, HR duties, managing the gallery (and if I may add a writer’s note here, she’s an absolute delight). Dean Wolf rounds out their small team as the Webmaster, photographer, glass blowing assistant and also helps with sales and marketing.

His process with any project starts with sketching things out “to see where problem areas might be. After getting the ideas out on paper, a prototype is created to see how the sketched designs translate into the glass medium. Then, the design is moved into the modification stage where it’s tweaked. After everyone’s happy, the design goes into final production stage.

When asked where he saw himself and Austin Art Glass in ten years, Gross answered “still in business doing what I love, blowing glass.” Construction to move his studio (currently at a Lake Travis location) to behind the gallery on South Congress Avenue is in the works and Gross said he would like to see the shop become a fixture of South Austin and hopefully on the top 10 list of “fun things to do in Austin”.

While it doesn’t seem like he lives by many rules when working with glass, Gross did have a few lines of advice to share with any artists out there: "colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel always look good together" and "jewel tones and primaries always look good together".

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