Artist Feature: Leckie Gassman
Glassblowing is one of those crafts that excites. Molten glass on the end of a long steel pipe, going in and out of a blazing Glory Hole. (Yes, the furnace used to reheat glass to maintain proper working temperature is called a Glory Hole). Torches blasting, people rushing back and forth, and music bumping. It's a fun and exciting environment!
We wanted to share a bit of glass terminology before we dive into our next Artist Feature, as some of the terms are craft specific. A Hot Shop is the studio space that glass artist work in when blowing glass. Using a steel pipe, glass blowers gather glass from a furnace kept at temps of roughly 2300 degrees. The glass must constantly be kept on center, just like in throwing ceramics, so that the glass stays symmetrical. This is done by constantly turning the steel pipe.
Glass blowing takes at least two people: the Gaffer is the person creating the glass art, and his or her Blow Partner, who assists the Gaffer in his making process. Using various tools, the Gaffer will shape the glass while his or her partner blows through the other end of the pipe. The glass must be constantly reheated in the Glory Hole to maintain temperature so it does not break. Once completed, the glass is placed in an Annealing Oven at 960 degrees that slowly drops to room temperature over a day.
From there, glass artists may take their pieces into a Cold Shop where they will use various abrasive tools to carve, shape and polish their pieces.
Olive Oil Dispenser, Leckie Gassman
Leckie Gassman is a multi-media artist living in Asheville, NC. He studied glass in his undergraduate career, and now works as a glass blower in addition to making his own glass art. Not only are his forms and craftsmanship of the highest quality, but his color choices are fun and playful! We are stoked to have him in the shop, and were able to catch up with Leckie in between his glass blowing sessions to learn more about his creative process. Read on"
Your work resides in many facets: sculptural, abstract, figurative and functional. Sometimes even all at once. Can you dive into your creative process a bit for us?
It's hard to say that the creative process ever starts or ends. I have a hard time sitting still; I am always working on something, and it seems that each facet informs another. Through painting and working in the flat I have begun to address the surface of the glass forms that I have been studying. Working full-time in a production glass studio can be exhausting, so when I get home its nice to dive into something completely different.
You've been making art for years, but when did you start to realize that you loved working with glass as a creative medium?
I went to college for pottery and while I was there I began working with glass as well as the wooden lathe. I became infatuated with the similarity between these processes. Glass began to steal my attention because of the atmosphere in the studio, the fragility of the material itself, and the technical challenges of controlling it. Unlike ceramic, when the piece was finished and put into the oven it was done.
Was there anyone you met or worked with during your formative glass years that truly inspired you?
Angus Powers, and Dan Mirer both showed me the capabilities of glass and helped me to establish a strong technical foundation to grow off of as an artist.
Things in the hot shop can get pretty crazy at times. Torches blasting, furnace doors opening, people rushing to and fro. How do you keep your cool when working with molten glass?
Haha it can be tricky, especially when working production with a few others dancing around each other with hot glass. Drinking plenty of water is key, but after a few years it becomes a normal. When I am the one making the piece nothing else matters, and everything else fades away.
What is one of the wildest pieces you have ever worked on?
Definitely while I was in school. Some fellow students and I worked together to make a replica of a super soaker with blown glass. There is a small photo of it is on my instagram.
You graduated from Alfred University in upstate New York before moving to Asheville. What drew you to that North Carolina mountain town?
I moved here to to start working at the glass studio I currently work at, Lexington Glassworks. I actually had no idea what this place is, and I gotta say i really lucked out, its great.
You work as a glass blower in addition to making your own wares to sell. How does your experience in the hot shop differ from when you are working for someone else, and when you are in the shop for your own creation?
As I said earlier, when I'm the one making, especially when its my designs, nothing else matters and time flies by. The latter can go a bit slower depending on what we are making. Regardless I can easily get into the zone when I am looking at glass move.
Well recently I have been carving a lot of my work and the trickiest part about this is knowing when to stop and call it finished. Otherwise it might get overdone and look horrible.Your work is pretty technical, both in your use of color, form and execution of craft. It's impressive, to say the least. Knowing how extensive some of these processes can be and the risk of the glass I have to ask: what's the most challenging part of seeing a piece through completion?
Oh yeah, I've noticed that some of your blown glass work has a lot of carving work as well. The cold shop is avoided by some glass artists, maybe due to the lack of fire, ha. What inspires you to carve your pieces in the cold shop?
Well to start, its almost always available to me because I can work there at any time. Most hot shops shut down at night, and when it's time to make your own work there is a set time period where everything has to happen. I look at the coldshop very similar to painting in that I can start something and put it down. There is patience involved, and through this I am able to take a blown piece even further from its original existence. Treating the surface has become a remedy for an ongoing conflict I have towards my love for making functional forms. It seems that the better you make an object, for example a bowl, the less likely the owner is willing to use it. So by taking the surface to a new level I like to think it begins to share the respect and acceptance similar to paintings. I am ok that these forms never be used.
Do you have any pre or post hot shop rituals?
Usually a beer when we finish a long day.
Haha, sounds nice! Any new projects in the works?
Yeah, a group of friends and myself are organizing a show in LA this March 31st. The group is called DemoBlank and they are taking houses that are up for demolition and turning them into galleries for emerging artists. This first show will host some very talented artist that I went to school with. There will be a large variety of work and our buddy Dr doppler will be the DJ for the event which is very exciting. My plan is to set up an installation featuring some of my carved glass form but in a sort of system that relies on time to determine if they break or not; balloons will be involved.
Live in LA? Keep you're eyes peeled for DemoBlank at the end of this month!
Follow Leckie on Instagram
Check out his insanely cool Olive Oil Dispensers in our shop here