With glass art, some like it hot

Jacqueline Mendelson began glass blowing while studying at Temple’s Tyler school in 1988. From that point on, Mendelson says she simply lost interest in everything else but glass blowing.

After living in Seattle for 13 years and running her own glass blowing shop, Mendelson returned to the Bella Vista section of South Philadelphia four years ago.

She’ll be displaying her hand-blown glass vases, sculptures and hanging light vessels at the Orbit Gallery on Main Street in Manayunk this Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m. It’s part of this month’s First Friday in Manayunk lineup. 

With a furnace searing between 1,800 and 2,100 degrees, glass blowing is a volatile craft. It involves constantly heating and reheating the glass, and churning its liquid form into shapes before the glass cools and solidifies. But Mendelson says the art form also offers its share of detective work.

“What I like the most with glass is the problem solving,” says Mendelson, who has occasionally blown glass at East Falls Glassworks in the past. “With vases, I have to figure out how to make it look recognizable as a vase, as well as being attractive.”

One of her designs on display is a set of vases that take on the appearance of alabaster, with offset white accented with earthy tones of bronze and ambers. Of course, the vases are just glass, so Mendelson had a riddle to solve with discovering a technique to give the glassware the look of alabaster stones.

One of Mendelson’s more lucrative designs has been her hanging light vessels, which look like vases suspended from three chains and wired to a light bulb on the inside. Mendelson says she taught herself how to wire the electronics, and fashioned a decorative tassel cord at the bottom of the vessel to double as a power switch. Mendelson sold the first model of this series of hanging light vessels to a gallery in California, which ultimately sold it to the set designer of the sitcom “Will & Grace”, and appeared as a set fixture for 10 years.

For more information, visit MendelsonArtGlass.com.

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