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Master glassblowers Daniel Spitzer and Jill Reynolds are award-wining artists based in upstate New York who primarily work in the realm of large scale installations, sculpture, and chandeliers.  Between them, they’ve worked on the lobby at the Bellagio, been featured in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Seattle Art Museum and the Microsoft Corporation’s collections, and have won fellowships and residencies everywhere from Pittsburgh Glass Center to Harvard.  This week they answer some questions about their perfectly off-kilter side project Malfatti.


How long have you been living in Beacon and what do you love about it?

Jill: We moved from Brooklyn to Beacon almost 12 years ago. Besides the beautiful setting and more affordable space, we’ve lucked into a great community of fellow “creatives,” including artists, artisans, designers, writers, musicians, and fans of good food, many of whom have gone on to open local businesses and get involved in local politics and community organizations. This sense of community is further enhanced by the presence of some family members who followed us here from Brooklyn.


Malfatti came about a bit by accident.  Can you tell me a bit about that and what you were working on at the time?

Jill: In 2010 I was a Visiting Artist at Middlebury College, a Liberal Arts school in Vermont, teaching a class I called Labudiostudatory that encouraged students to use ideas and methods of science to create art. All of the students were completely new to flameworking so one of the first exercises I gave them was to make something that could stand up and hold water, i.e. a drinking glass. Though I’d been flameworking for many years I myself had never actually made a glass, so I made one as an example and to use around the studio and that was the first Malfatti [a Small]. I liked using it and thought others might as well so I started making them as gifts. The name came later.


When did Malfatti begin? 

Jill: While we’ve been selling Malfatti glassware here and there since 2012, Malfatti Glass LLC wasn’t officially formed as a business until 2014 when we finally realized that people really liked the glasses and we should try to make it a real business.


You’ve both been working with glass for a very long time.  What is it about this art form that captures your imagination? 

Jill: The kind of glassworking technique that we use to make Malfatti Glass is called flameworking, a method that uses rods and tubes of glass shaped and fused directly in the flame of a table-mounted oxy-propane torch. Coming from a background in drawing and printmaking, the attraction when I first encountered this technique was that I saw it as a way to create a gestural line in three dimensions. While this method can also be used with soda-lime glass, I’ve always only worked with clear borosilicate glass [brand name Pyrex], the same kind of glass used to make laboratory equipment, so it lends itself well to making sculpture that incorporates metaphors of science and nature.

Dan: I’m fascinated by the way the technique of glassblowing can take a molten amorphous blob of glass and turn it into something solid that still retains that fluid quality.  

You have both have some pretty amazing CVs.   What are some career highlights?

Jill: Having a yearlong fellowship at Radcliffe with access to the collection of Blaschka Glass Flowers at Harvard was a real privilege. Being in residence while working on my show at the MIT List Visual Art Center was great for meeting all kinds of amazing scholars and scientists there. I had the opportunity to work with some other scientists when the University of Washington commissioned a piece for a show on art and biotechnology. But one of my favorite experiences was as a Visiting Artist at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas in the middle of a state known for its tornado weather and Christian fundamentalism. The students were mostly from farms, ranches and small towns and together we created an installation called Big Bang, turning the school’s gallery into a walk-in diorama of the universe’s first moment of explosive creation.

Dan: I've had the good fortune to work with excellent glassmakers, Venetian maestros who were willing to share their skills gained from years of traditional training and classic techniques, as well as contemporary American glassblowers who are pushing those techniques in new directions. Being in Seattle for the beginning of my career gave me access to a lot of talent and exposed me to techniques and methods that have informed what I do today.

Dan – can you tell me a bit about your time working with Dale Chihuly? What about the making of the Bellagio chandelier?

I had a great experience during the ten or so years that I worked in the Chihuly studio. Dale was really good about encouraging a sense of experimentation and there were always other talented glassblowers to work with and learn from. The Bellagio project was a test of endurance, creating the 2,000 glass elements over the months that it took to complete.

 What’s one of the most difficult pieces you’ve worked on?

Jill: We each made a chandelier commissioned by the Pittsburgh Glass Center for a show of artists’ chandeliers. The chandelier I made, called GENESIS 3:1, while not the biggest or most complicated piece I’ve done, was the most demanding technically. It spelled out the words  “LET THERE BE LIGHT” in cursive letters made of ¾” solid glass rod that is very tempermental to work with, plus all the parts had to fit together and fit the electrical hardware. For someone whose aesthetic is more “malfatti” this was a challenge.

Dan: My chandelier, called DUST UP, depicts a cartoon brawl between Craft and Art, composed of some 25 elements made of hot glass that were sculpted using hand tools while still on the pipe. These include some of the classic signifiers of a cartoon fight, such as birds and dust clouds; as well as items pertaining to these particular combatants, such as a palette and Venus de Milo for Art, and a goblet and anvil for Craft. The challenge included building an armature that would hold all these disparate shapes while getting them to fit together into a coherent whole.

Jill – you’ve spent a lot of time teaching at various schools around the country.  How did you find the transition from making to teaching? What do you love about teaching?

Jill: Going between studio practice and the classroom is good exercise, I think both activities benefit from the exchange. Teaching is fun, kind of like being President of an Art Club where I get to make up cool projects for students to work on, and I always learn things from the way students approach their work. What’s been more of a challenge has been going from being a studio artist to running a business—that’s a very different mindset. I have a lot more respect for business owners now!

How did you guys meet?

Jill: We originally met at the Pilchuck Glass School annual auction event in Seattle, where we were both living at the time, but then didn't see each other again for a year and a half when we re-met at a [glass] friend’s birthday party. [longer story]

What are you looking forward to? 

We’ve been invited to be in an exhibition scheduled to open in February at the Dorsky Museum at the State University of New York, called "Made for You: New Directions in Contemporary Design." We’ll be showing an assortment of Malfatti glassware as well as doing an installation of some sort.

What’s on the horizon for Malfatti?

We’re currently renovating our studio with the goal of being able to streamline production, increase output, and maybe hire some flameworkers. We also have some ideas for new designs that we’d like to introduce.

 What do you hope people say about Malfatti?

We like hearing that people enjoy using their glasses. Some of the comments we’ve received are that they’re “friendly” and “sexy,” “they feel so comfortable,” and “they make me happy.” One time a friend brought to the studio a distinguished-looking Japanese gentleman, a friend of hers visiting from out of town. He was very appreciative of the Malfatti glasses in general, and decided to get a Sake set, which includes a Carafe and 4 Tiny cups. But rather than one Carafe he decided to get two because, as he put it, “This one is like the Man, and this one is like the Woman, and they should be together.”



Malfatti glassware is available here.