Dierk Van Keppel
For me, there is great joy in knowing the ancient craft of glassblowing. As modern mechanized glass processes displaced the artisan, this centuries-old tradition was virtually lost. Rediscovered, I find the glass process yields hidden secrets long since tried and forgotten. Glass art causes me to wonder of great possibilities. It allows me to communicate the unspoken language to which we all relate; beauty, form, color, clarity, opacity, and depth.
I took one glassblowing class and immediately was hooked. The challenge of working with glass, rudimentary tools and a 2000 degree furnace ignites my passion. My creative process is collaborative. I influence others and others influence me. With a team of American artists we create using traditional Italian glass blowing techniques. Using four foot steel blowpipes and hand tools perfected by artisans over the past two thousand years, every gather of glass is an exploration in form, color and artistic expressions. Each piece from the smallest vessel to vast architectural commissions is a one of a kind handcrafted work of art.
Creating my art is an intuitive process that translates an idea from my mind to the muscles in my hands. Beginning with a gather of scorching glass on a steel blowpipe, and with the help of centrifugal force and gravity, I blow the glass form into shape. Using wooden blocks and damp newspapers I maneuver the glass into the intended form. I use an overlay process in my glass work. Blowing two separate glass bubbles, I attach them together, bottom to bottom; I then pull one bubble over the side of the other. The overlay bubble covers 2/3 of the interior bubble. This process creates a chaotic texture on the surface of a centered glass piece. Natural chaos inspires me. My work explores the powerful forces found in nature; fire, water, and wind. I discover insight in snowflakes, crystals, bugs, flowers, skeletons, shells, geometry, origami… Using the labor intensive overlay process allows me to convey this type of imagery and also express order and chaos through the different dimensions of the glass. The work is not machine made, but created through the investment of time, energy, and heart.
Overcoming obstacles during the process fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Often I wake to find myself dreaming of my work. My glasswork captivates and exhilarates. Each exclusive piece is an attempt at something new and mysterious. My best work is produced when I am able to key off material samples, textiles, stone, metal and wood before work on a project begins. When creating a piece I feel the most important thing to do is to create some kind of mystery. I want people to look at a piece and say I wonder how he created that. That wonder, the sense of awe of the unknown is the most interesting part of life for me and I like to relate that in my artwork.
After blowing glass for over 25 years, today I still walk into my stone cottage studio and feel my soul come alive. In my rock cottage, I work and invent, aspiring to create pieces which encourage reflection, wonder and awe at the mystery of the interweaving between life, natural forces, and the universe.