David Jacobson welcomes me into his glassblowing studio in Montville. He’s just finishing a glassblowing lesson, and I catch the very end of it. The vase they have made is nicely finished, giving me a sense of the process it’s been through only by the way they move it around the studio: quickly, carefully, as though it’s still very hot and must remain that way.
When the lesson is over, David sits down with me in the gallery area of the studio building to tell me about himself and his work. He doesn’t have too long to talk before he needs to go back to work, so we get right to it. I ask how he describes what he does.
“I was trained in the Venetian style (of glassblowing),” he says. (I read more about Venetian glassblowing later and learn that it utilizes simple tools, gravity, and furnace-finishing). “I love color. I love form. And I make functional objects as well as sculptural.” He shows me some of the functional pieces – vases, glasses, bowls. The sculptural pieces include ornaments and a new design – decorative glass pumpkins with a long, curling vine.
“I feel very lucky to have discovered glass,” David tells me. “Glass is the most amazing material. You can’t stop until you’re finished. There are no coffee breaks. It keeps you right in the moment.” He also appreciates something I never would have thought of – the social aspect of glassblowing. “It’s a great thing, working in teams,” he says, going on to tell me that he enjoys the multi-person aspect of the craft. Beyond teaching and demonstrating, I come to understand, having at least two people to work on the blown glass pieces is essential. One person can turn the hot glass while the other shapes it, for example. On the day I visit, David is working with and being assisted by another skilled craftsman, Ed Hastings. “I love (collaboration)” David says. “It all adds to the creative energy.”
David’s studio has been running for three years. He sells his work out of the on-site gallery and online, as well as several shops. Before he renovated his current workspace into a studio, it was a shed belonging to the two hundred-year-old house he lives in. The glass is kept in a glowing furnace at 2,150º Fahrenheit twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and he is in his studio most days. Glass, he tells me, has been an interest since he was in college, but before he came to work in Maine, he was a cartoonist in New York for eighteen years. His cartoons were syndicated in national newspapers, and have appeared in the New Yorker magazine. “I was lucky to be a cartoonist,” he tells me, “but glass was my passion.”
I ask what inspires him. His work is colorful and full of interesting shapes and lines. “I’m influenced by what I see,” he says, “especially here in Maine. I’m drawn to texture, drawn to ocean colors. And to how colors interact.” He’s also intrigued by the interplay of glass and light, and is planning to pursue custom lighting pieces. “One of the biggest problems is what to focus on,” he says about the wealth of inspiration he finds. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Thinking about the 1500º heat and the sharpness of glass, I ask him if he considers the process of glassblowing to be dangerous. But it’s clear that his years of experience make him confident in his work. “I enjoy the heat,” he says. “And I have a healthy respect for this environment.” Watching him make a piece from start to finish afterward, I can see that the process looks much less scary than I thought it might, mainly because David obviously knows exactly what he is doing. The fiery furnaces and molten glass are all well in hand.
We wrap up by chatting for a few minutes about Maine’s art community. He tells me how great he’s found it to be. “There’s a high level of work,” he says. “And you never even see (the artists).” Many of the art makers in Maine, he points out, have studios tucked away on back roads, including him. But even so, he’s very aware of the rich and diverse work all around the area. “Any (arts-related) questions I have,” he says, “there are people to ask.”