Jack Storms – A Cut Above
Cold glass sculptor shares his quest for artistic perfection and the beauty that results.
Inside the Valencia workshop of cold glass sculptor Jack Storms, there is a constant hum of something or another — a cacophony of machines spinning, drilling, grinding. The floor is wet with a mud-brown polish, footprints broken by other footprints walking in the opposite direction. His staff members are hard at work at various stations. In an adjacent room, Jack is standing in front of a lathe the size of a grand piano. His mouth is moving, but his voice is drowned out by the roar of the machine.
On the lathe he invented back in 2005 — a lathe specifically designed to shape cold glass — an egg-shaped glass object rotates, plucks whatever light falls on it and gleams in shades of precious stones. At the moment, it’s opaque and still unfinished, its surface ribbed and uneven. But soon, it’ll become something else — something so dauntingly flawless it’s hard to think it’s born in the hustle and bustle of a place so real and gritty. Clad in a black shirt and dark grey pants splattered with a few drops of paint, he exudes confidence — the good, amicable and outgoing kind—with his tone and wide stance.
“When I first started working with this type of material, I was strictly doing geometric shapes,” he explains, his hands moving to illustrate pyramids, cubes and spheres. “And I said, you know, this has got potential. I can do a lot more to make a piece more organic, so you get a sense that they’re created, not manufactured.”
Though now he creates glass sculptures varying in design — teardrops, champagne bottles, flutes, you name it — they all start at the same point: the core. It’s what makes his pieces so ethereal, so other-worldly. The world as seen through his glass sculptures is a meticulously calculated symphony of color, and that is perhaps why Jack thinks it’s worth all the time and energy it takes.
The process starts with a block of lead crystal, which Jack cuts widthwise and then lengthwise several times, grinding and polishing each piece. Then he’ll insert slivers of dichroic — glass that alternates between two colors under light — between the slices at every stage, gluing them together and allowing them to cure. The finished product reflects several colors of light at once, no matter which way the viewer turns it, to create art that didn’t exist until Jack came onto the scene.
But it wasn’t until later in life that Jack carved a niche for himself as a glass sculptor. He graduated from Plymouth State University with a degree in art at the age of 30 and launched his business in 2002, drawing inspiration from nearly two years of working at another cold-glass artist’s studio, Toland Sand. And thanks to his experience in studio management, when it came to the nuts and bolts of running the operation, Jack already knew things like scheduling, ordering, establishing a vision and moving forward.
“Growing a studio is a science,” he says. “There’s always been a demand; it’s always been about what I can handle. You have to have the right people.”
Today, Jack has six people on staff helping him produce his work. It took him more than a decade, he says, just to find one person. All of which is to say: He’s picky, as someone doing this kind of work should be. Not only does it take a certain amount of physical precision, but it also requires a certain kind of patience and discipline.
“I don’t let flaws happen,” he says. “We’re actually about to cut a beautiful piece because there’s a flaw.” The piece he’s talking about is Medium Blue Aerial, and today it’s slated to be guillotined. It’s heavy, shaped somewhat like a book and is about the size of one, too. The problem with Aerial is in its core, something with the dichroic glass that’s just a little bit off.
“People would probably never see [the error] in a million years, but I can’t let it happen,” he says as he tilts the piece this way, then that.
Jack takes it to a saw machine that’s flecked with rust, it’s original red color chipped and faded, and the motor starts with a roar. Time and again, Jack refers to his promise of perfection, accepting tedium and starting over as a means of getting there. But as the blade cuts through the imperfectly perfect Blue Aerial, the moment becomes a not-so-quiet reminder that being close to absolute perfection, for Jack, is not close enough.
For more information about Jack Storms, please visit www.JackStorms.com.
photos by Joie de Vivre Photographie