ZOOM (2002), BY TOBIAS MěHL
ACQUIRED FROM WILLIAM TRAVER GALLERY, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, AUGUST 2002
HAND-BLOWN AND FUSED GLASS, 18 1/2" IN DIAMETER, SIGNATURE ENGRAVED BY THE ARTIST


To me, Tobias M°hl's works are quite paradoxical, in that they are both simple and complicated at the same time. Tobias' Conch Bowl, for example, uses only clear and white glass and was created using a technique that's quite simple once you know how it's done. However, the resulting work appears to be very complicated, leaving the viewer with a "How in the world did he do that?" feeling. (Harvey Littleton, the founder of the American studio glass movement, once said that "Technique is cheap", but there's no denying that mastery of technique can help an artist to create incredible works of art if they have vision to match.)

This work is a very shallow plate (over 18" in diameter, but just over 1" deep) made in two sections: the center and the outer rim. A lot of what follows is conjecture based on my knowledge of how glass can be manipulated... I've not spoken to Tobias to confirm any of this, but Dan Kany and I brainstormed over the phone and came up with an educated guess as to how this work was created:

  • First, Tobias created glass canes, or murrine (pronounced "mu REE nee"). For this work, the murrine consisted of a thin core of black glass surrounded by clear glass, twisted around so that the black glass was coiled up inside of each murrine like a small spring.
  • Then, Tobias laid out the murrine in a circle and fused them together into a solid disc of glass, embedded with glass springs. (This process also resulted in the bubbles that you can see in the second image.) To force the springs to appear to radiate from a central point, Tobias somehow stretched the disc's front edge while it was still hot, and then trimmed off the edges to create a perfectly circular disc.
  • Once the disc was completed, Tobias picked it up onto a punty, or glassblowing rod, and proceeded to add the outer rim of ghostly white glass using traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques. The circular shape of the work is basically perfect, which is quite difficult to do with works of this size.
There are a few things about this work that appeal to me. The basic color scheme (clear, black, and white glass) is perfect for this type of work... I think using color would detract from the overall effect of the work. I also really like the clean geometry of the shape of the work... a circle surrounding another circle that itself contains many small circular objects. The coolest thing of all, though, is the amazing effect Tobias has created with the glass springs... they really do appear to be zooming through the work. They create a sense of motion that most works in glass just don't possess.

Scroll down to see a detail shot of this work.

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