Masonic Art Glass Aquarium Urn



Here is a compelling work produced soon after James Nowak's relocation to Seattle, in his Pioneer Square studio location.  A period in his career when his signature styles were becoming more defined, yet he still produced many unusual and conceptually daring works that remain as unique works today.

The work starts with a very old form, a somewhat elliptical Urn shape with flared center and rounded base. From the base glass, swirls of dichroic and iridescent glass build the structure which is then given additional decorative presence by a spiral band of tomato red lip wrap.

Built up from that platform are additional decorative elements in the form of rods, canes, filigrana, and murini, giving the piece its provenance among the early Aquarium series experimental pieces.  A wide variety of colors and forms are utilized, giving the vase a variety of different looks when viewed from various angles.
Added to this are some experimental topical 'stencil' or 'transfer' motifs in black which have then been fired and embedded into the work itself.  Comprising a Masonic Square and Compasses, an antique bicycle, and other decorative elements, they add a mystery to the piece which invites dialog with the viewer.  Highly unusual and very interesting both from the standpoint of the technical process of creation, and in interpreting the artist's statement within the work.

About the Artist

James Nowak is an awesomely inspired, amazingly creative, and technically astute artist. Among the finest contemporary art glass artists working today, he has the potential, as career and vision unfold, to become one of the few artists to reach the very pinnacle of this medium.  This might be hyperbole...but is, in fact, the simple truth.  Creating pieces across a range of glass styles and techniques, Nowak is as comfortable working in a very traditional Murano type process as he is standing on the cutting edge next to such icons as Chihuly.  Perhaps Nowak is at his most amazing however, when he deftly blends many influences -- all within the same piece. His works project a synthesis and inimitable imprint that is the essence and vision of the exceptional James Nowak.

Watching this artist at work is a treat beyond description.  Within his studio, all components for his pieces are handmade. In the Murano tradition, millefiore canes are built, stretched, and sliced. All of the discs, ribbons, and murini that blend together so incredibly in the finished works are each a minor masterpiece in their own right. These tiny wonders are combined with Nowak's artistic vision, and built around a core of glowing molten glass. Additional elements such as iridescent and dichroic glass, in shards or crushed, further increase the complexity and depth of a piece.
As the work continues, the synthesis of layers is gradually revealed, yet the final direction of the piece is still only within the mind of the artist. The radiant orb of glass, affixed at the end of a long metal tube may then be introduced to a mold to give ridges, or have further shaping done, as it is slowly blown and inflated by the careful mouth of the artist. Constantly twirling, rolling, and shaping, the artist tracks a thousand and one things that could ruin the piece instantaneously if something went awry. The piece is then reversed, so the base is attached to the rod...for additional shaping work and finishing.
Then, perhaps the most delicate dance of the entire operation happens. The piece, still barely one step from glowing orange with heat, is released from its metal umbilical cord. For a brief second it falls free, into the well insulated arms of a trusted assistant, who places the piece into a heated annealing oven. Slowly, very slowly, the safe cocoon of the oven cools the piece and keeps it safe as the metamorphosis from shapeless molten blob to timeless creation completes itself. Then a whole range of final finishing operations can commence. Suffice to say, glass is one of the most intensely personal of the creative arts...a medium that not only shows the hand of the artist, but his life breath and strength as well.  Powerful or delicate, massive or barely there, glass can be any of those things. In the hands of an exceptional artist like James Nowak, it can be ALL of those once.

Some Additional Information about the artist: Mr. Nowak has both studied and taught in connection with some of the most respected and exciting names in the art glass world including Pilchuck, Chihuly, Maroni/Corning, and Pratt to name a few. Works by Mr. Nowak are included in significant private collections, corporate collections, and public institutions. Further information about his background, artistic vision, and photos of additional pieces can be found on his website: 

A special "Thanks" to Northwest Art Glass for submitting the pictures and description of this wonderful piece.




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