MALLEI VITREI PRO DOMIBUS VITREIS (2001), BY ĘSA BJÖRK THORSTEINSDÓTTIR
ACQUIRED FROM THE ARTIST, BERGEN, NORWAY, APRIL 2001
CAST GLASS, 10 5/8" BY 4", TEXT INSCRIBED BY THE ARTIST
I first saw Ęsa's work in a listing of items to be sold in the silent auction at the 2000 Pilchuck Auction... the work in question was a cast glass hammer called Mallei Vitrei pro Domibus Vitreis, which is Latin for "glass hammer for a glass house". If you think about it, the idea of a glass hammer is very ironic... you can't really use a glass hammer without destroying it. Here are Ęsa's words on the subject:
My main field of interest is in the unconventional use of glass as a sculptural material both in its representation and making. In the past I have used cast glass combined with various other materials and techniques such as video projections to express the aspects of the human body, its functions and dysfunctions. The glass hammers build on that experience and play with the paradox created by their role as incongruous fruit of self destruction, reflected both within the viewer when confronted with a fragile hammer, and in relation to the fragility of the glass house itself.
Since I was unable to attend the auction, and therefore could not bid on Ęsa's work, I decided to contact her to see if I could obtain a hammer from her directly. Ultimately, we communicated back and forth with each other for five months, entirely through e-mail. Within the first few messages, we had agreed on the type of work she would create for me: a cast glass hammer made with steel blue Gaffer glass from New Zealand. (Most of her other hammers were made using clear glass.) It ended up taking quite a while for the glass to journey from New Zealand to Norway, where Ęsa has her studio, but she kept me advised as to the progress of the project. Finally, in early April, Ęsa let me know that the hammer was complete and sent it to me.

Basically, this hammer is the size of an ordinary hammer, just like you would use to hammer nails into a wall. There are some bubbles trapped within the glass, a result of the casting process. The outer surface is smooth to the touch, but not highly polished... so, you can see through the hammer, but it has more substance than if it were crystal-clear.

Since I commissioned this work, Ęsa offered to inscribe the work for me. The hammer bears the following inscription on the top of its claw:

Įritašur blįnęttis hamar frį Ęsu handa Clay Johanson
This is Icelandic, and translates to "a signed hammer of the blue night from Ęsa for Clay Johanson". Blue is one of my favorite colors, especially in glass, so this is a really nice thing for Ęsa to have inscribed on the work.

I really like this hammer... the mere idea of it brings a smile to my face, and its name is especially ironic considering that I actually do live in a "glass house": I am surrounded by glass art, and my residence features very large glass windows which offer me excellent views of the city around me. It's very appropriate that I should have a work like this in my collection.

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Postscript: Interestingly enough, Ęsa and I learned through our e-mails that we were both at the Pilchuck School at the same time in August 2000... I visited and had lunch there one day, while she was working on casting a large concrete dome for an installation of hers in the show Clearly Brilliant. So, although we probably had lunch in the same room with each other, we've never actually met. Small world, huh?