Jeff Zimmerman: Glass Vessels of Light

People / Products / January 31, 2014

“Planned accidents,” Jeff Zimmerman calls his vessels of light

A master craftsman, Zimmerman works with glass the same way Italian artisans have for generations.

But he relies on heat, gravity and centrifugal force to intervene – and to form abstractions.

“I know that if I blow a bubble up very, very thin, I can allow natural actions to design with me,” he says. “If I push too far, the accidents will collapse it – the glass is fluid, and then you can see that moment again. It freezes moments in time.”

His method introduces a spirit of spontaneity into what’s actually an extremely controlled process.

“It’s a combination of having intent and letting go,” he says.

In a new exhibition at R & Company (formerly R 20th Century) in Manhattan, Zimmerman’s showing a series of large “crinkled” vessels, some encrusted with glass gems. There’s also a body of work inspired by infinity – clusters of giant glass spheres and mirrors embedded with orbs.

In addition to his hand-crafted objects, though, he also specializes in site–specific, custom commissions.

“I like to create environments like David Lynch or Matthew Barney – it’s beautiful, but a little disturbing,” he says.

The idea is not to be afraid of beauty in artwork. “I think it was a no-no for a long time,” he says. “But now it’s accepted. You can create an environment that’s not been seen before and make people think.  It’s an abstraction, so viewers can ask questions –  but it’s up to them to interpret what’s happening.”

It’s all about exploring physics, both micro and macro. “It enables me to see cosmic patterns, on a larger scale,” he says. “There’s a physical connection to the glass blowing, one that’s affected by gravity and heat – I’m allowing gravity to participate in my designs.”

And it’s a beautiful thing.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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