Featured Artist Brent Graber
What can you say about Brent? He’s funny. He’s a wonderful teacher. He’s in love. He makes beautiful hearts. He’s a wonderfully talented glass artist. He’s a great dad. He’s just one of my favorite people. Have fun getting to know him a little better!
How did you get started in lampworking?
I had a friend in south Florida that made marbles and sculptural stuff in his garage. I saw the set up one day and asked what it was. He had a Carlisle CC and an Aim front loading kiln. I asked if it worked and if I could melt something. He handed me a clear glass rod, lit the torch and pointed to a pile of crushed colored glass he called frit. Funny name, but what the heck, I’m game… I melted the clear, rolled it around in some of that frit stuff and I was hooked!
What was the thing that made you interested?
The fire and the weird tingly feeling I got when I melted glass… it was a rush and it was definitely not easy. I knew I had to figure it out… I just had to!
How long have you been lampworking?
I’ve been lampworking for about 8 years I guess. Time really doesn’t matter when you’re doing what you love, so it may have been longer. Sure doesn’t seem like 8 years!
Is it a business for you or a hobby?
This is my sole source of income. I’m a single Dad with 3 kids. I have custody of two and this obsession feeds us all. I am very grateful for everything I’ve been able to do in this industry and look forward to a lifetime of melting glass.
What inspires you?
I am in love with glass. I love everything about it. The way it moves… the way it captures light… the way it looks while I’m working with it. It truly is awe-inspiring. Most of my inspiration comes from the glass itself. I make objects resembling other things, but it’s because the glass lends itself to the shape or design so well. Some of my best work has come from an “Awe crap” moment… like… “What am I going to do with this now?”
How do you get the inspiration/motivation back when you are in a slump?
I play. I don’t set out to make anything in particular. I sit at the torch and melt something. It will eventually become something interesting and if it doesn’t, I throw it into the woods. Some people think it’s a shame for me to launch a good portion of my work, but the truth is, most of my work wasn’t made to sell. It was the process and I learned what I needed to from it. That was it’s purpose and I am happy to set it free.
Who are your 3 favorite lampworkers? Why?
I don’t have 3 favorite… I have at least 100. There are so many talented lampworkers and wonderful human beings in this industry; I couldn’t possibly name anybody my 3 favorites.
I can name 3 people who make me weak in the knees when I see their work…
Paul Stankard… that in no mere mortal. What he does with glass makes me shake my head. He is living proof that there’s no end to what we can do in glass.
Luccio… I’d really just like to know how he gets those tiny fingers all perfectly positioned without melting the one next to it. Mine would all look like burn victims. Mutilated freaks and that’s why I don’t add arms to my human forms yet.
Robert Mickelsen… If you’ve seen his work, you know why. 😉
What is the best thing about lampworking?
Running out of propane…
What is the funniest or scariest thing that ever happened to you when you were torching?
It’s the same story… funny and scary! I’ve got to give you the back-story first. My Dad used to be a welder and we live in Florida. We have bugs… big as your head… biting bugs. I used to do a lot of lathe work and I have two hand torches as well as a bench torch on my lathe. One night after a session, I came inside and told him the bugs were eating me alive. He said they used to kind of swat at the bugs with their torches when they were welding. He explained that the bug’s wings were so delicate that they would burn up and it didn’t hurt you, if you did it quick. This fascinated me…
Ok, so now fast forward a few weeks or so. I’m on my lathe and there is this yellow fly. It’s a deer fly type bug on speed. I swear these things are part psychic and part Ferrari. He was chewing on me left and right. I had about 6 bites to my legs and every attempt to smack the hellhound resulted in more humiliation. He finally pissed me off! He landed on my big toe (I wear flip flops all the time). He devoured my innocent soft flesh, just happily trying to grow a toenail. I had my Carlisle premix hand torch blazing. I knew what had to be done… I had never been so clear about an objective… I was gonna cook his little butt!!! So, in one fell swoop, I poured the full fury of my 18” blue flame of death onto his fragile little frame. His little world came crashing down and the biblical hell fire and brimstone stories came to life for him… I rejoiced… I was smiling from ear to ear, until I remembered what was under the bug… and as the flame shot sideways, deflected by my toe, I realized I hand forgotten about the most important part of my Dad’s story… “It won’t hurt you, as long as you’re quick!”
I managed to finish the piece before the throbbing set in. The toe was black for a good long while and the blister can only be described as enormous. The bug didn’t recover. 😉
What kind of set up do you use? Torch?
I use a Bethlehem Barracuda and power it with two concentrators from Unlimited Oxygen. I love it!
What is your favorite glass?
What ever I’m melting at the time, but I do predominately work in boro.
Do you have a favorite technique?
Not really… It’s all fun!
What are your favorite color combinations?
Amber Purple over Egyptian White Sands…
What’s your favorite technique?
See the question before last… I guess you didn’t like that answer, so you’re trying to trick me. I’m on to your crafty games. LOL
What technique makes you want to bang your (or someone else’s) head against the wall?
The more challenging the better… why would I hate anything? Just because I can’t do it right yet? A real challenge gives me something to look forward to. If I could do everything, I wouldn’t be interested in doing any of it.
What is that shape that you really HATE to make?
Butt plugs. That always made me a little uncomfortable. Oh, by the way… I made sex toys out of borosilicate glass for years. So I’m being serious when I say they were not my favorite shape… 😉
Do you have a ‘comfort’ bead?
Hearts. I figure there can never be too much love in the world and I really enjoy making them.
How do you see yourself developing as a lampworker in the future?
My goal is to explore every thing I have time for. I love doing larger sculptural work. I’ll hopefully be healthy enough to do this in some form or fashion, for a very long time. Right up until the day I die would be perfect!
What are your goals?
To be happy and raise my kids with love in their life. To never stop caring about the people around me…
What do you consider as successful?
Look in the mirror… if you like what you see and there’s a smile more often than not, you’ve achieved it.
What is the key to getting there?
Love yourself enough to do what you need to do for you… love others and give what you can, without expecting anything in return… realize that you are unique… and you deserve to be happy… just like everybody else. Forgive others when they do you wrong, but it’s ok to avoid their evil asses if you can. You don’t have to like everybody… but you do have to like yourself.
What would be your 3 best tips for new artists?
Don’t compare your work to anybody else’s. There will always be folks who have more skill that you and there will always be folks who can’t do what you can do. If you compare your work to your work, it’s the only fair comparison… if it’s getting better, you’re successful!
Some times the very best ideas come from a mistake you didn’t give up on… it comes from playing and trying new things. Realize that there are no limits to what you can do and you don’t have to do anything in particular… PLAY!
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself…
Do you like to take classes from other lampworkers?
Yes, it’s a lot of fun!
Do you teach?
I do and I love it. It’s one of my passions. I absolutely love it when a student figures something out or realizes that they really can do something difficult. It’s a magical moment and I’m blessed to be a part of it.
Will you travel to teach?