Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Lino—Alchemy in Glass
Lino Tagliapietra has 70 years of experience in glass blowing dating back to when he was 12.
Monday, February 8, 2016



Lino Tagliapietra has a love for the fire. And it translates into Angel Tears and Spirales boasting dazzling shapes, bold colors and elegant, complex patterns that are both breathtaking and sensuous.

All made with a blowpipe, iron punty rod and a flat stab of metal on which he rolls and shapes the glass with giant tweezers and prong-like jacks.

“Endeavor,” blown glass with carved engravings

The Italian Maestro’s works reside in the collections of many major glass museums throughout the world, including the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

And Friesen Gallery is hosting “Il Maestro,” an exhibition of his work, through March 5 at 320 First Ave. N., in Ketchum.

The exhibition features glass sculptures with names like “Dinosaur Avventurine,” “Kookaburra” and “Stromboli” and mind blowing techniques like blood red and black grains, even sparkles, embedded in brown magenta glass. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, as part of the Valentine’s Day Weekend Gallery Walk.

Glass is alive, the Maestro told Gallery Owner Andria Friesen: “Even when it is cool, it is still moving. It is a connected with fire, it is connected with water, it is so natural.”

Lino Tagliapietra says he works out his dreams in the glass.

Friesen Gallery last exhibited Tagliapietra’s works 16 years ago.

“He’s 81 years old now and he just keeps getting better,” said Friesen, as she described how humbled she is to showcase such a significant exhibition. “Eighty-one years old and this is the best work of his career.”

Indeed, Tagliapietra is still blowing his own glass—long after most of his peers have retired. For many years William Morris and Lino Tagliapietra have been recognized as the preeminent glass blowers in the world and, since Morris retired in 2007, Lino stands alone, Friesen said.

You might say Tagliapietra was called from birth to be one of the world’s greatest glassmakers.

“Ostuni,” a 31.25-by-16.5-by-8.25-inch blown glass work, sells for $65,000.

He was born in Murano, Italy--an island whose glass making dates to 1291. He was apprenticed to the glass maestro Archimede Seguso at age 12, beginning as a water carrier in the factory where Seguso worked. After two years he was allowed to apply ribbing to a piece.

He began recreating pieces he saw in the Murano Glass Museum to learn everything he could about the art. And at the age of 25 he earned the rank of maestro, becoming the youngest ever to receive that title.

“You are awarded that title,” said Friesen. “It’s equal to being knighted. Now he’s like a Cher or a Madonna—one mention of the name ‘Lino’ and people know who you’re talking about. It’s amazing to think that he was awarded that title over 50 years ago and here he is making the best work of his career.”

Lino, as Friesen refers to him, invented numerous techniques and designs. And, as his reputation grew, he was visited by America’s own glass maestro Dale Chihuly. Chihuly taught him his techniques and Tagliapietra taught Chihuly the secrets of the Venetians.

Lino Tagliapietra has been at the forefront of the glass blowing art movement for more than 50 years

And, when his fellow Italians did not seem interested in learning the craft, Tagliapietra came to the United States where he taught at the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle. He revolutionized the development of glass as an artistic medium with his teaching.

American glass artists reacted like they were in the presence of a god, clinging to every word he said-- grateful to for the technical knowledge he imparted them, Friesen said.

“He did it because the young glass blowers in Murano weren’t interested. He’d say, ‘Let me show you.’ They’d say, ‘Not interested,’ ” Friesen recounted. “In America the young glassblowers said, ‘Feed me. Feed me. Feed me.’ ”

Tagliapietra was ostracized from his country for telling secrets, Friesen added.

“But he said, ‘For me to die without having shared this knowledge would be a sin.’ Now the world realizes his vision for the greater good, the fact that he has no ego.”

Even as Tagliapietra shared what he knew with American glassblowers, he embraced the artistic freedom and experimentalism he observed among Americans. In the process, he began stamping his own imagination and creativity on the traditional Italian techniques he had learned from the Maestros in Italy.

“His work is so beautiful. Period,” said Friesen. “He has the talent to create it, and that’s why no one else can.”

Tagliapietra has been credited with creating a new renaissance in studio glassmaking, sharing his knowledge with glassmakers in Japan, Australia, France and even Istanbul, Turkey, in addition to America.

Dale Chihuly has called him “the greatest living glassblower.”

And James Yood, adjunct professor of art history at the at the Art Institute of Chicago, says there are probably no two words more respected and honored in the history of modern sculpture in glass than “Lino Tagliapietra.”

“He is the living bridge, the crucial link between the august history of Venetian glass and the ceaseless wonders of what today we call the modern Studio Glass Movement,” Yood says.


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