Touch of glass - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Touch of glass

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Posted: Saturday, February 25, 2006 7:13 am | Updated: 3:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

On the ceiling of Arch and Jeannie McGill’s dining room is a piece of glass art born of the sea and one artist’s vision.

The anchor of the piece represents the rammed earth walls of the home, and the arms billowing out represent water, the water flowing beneath it.

It’s ethereal, Zen and practical (it doesn’t obstruct the view of the mountains).

The chandelier’s creator, Newt Grover, took his inspiration from plants living within the depths of the sea.

“It’s absolutely fabulous,” says Jeannie McGill of Scottsdale. “When we built this house, we had a lot of ideas for this space, and they didn’t work out. This worked.”

The chandelier and other pieces in the McGills’ collection of glass art add color and whimsy to the clean lines of the couple’s modern home. The McGills began collecting glass 12 years ago, when they picked up a piece by artist Dale Chihuly.

“We didn’t know anything about glass at the time,” says McGill. “We felt like we were ahead of the curve.”

They were.

“Glass has had a growing audience over the past four or five years,” says Kathleen Duley, coowner of the Duley-Jones Gallery in Scottsdale. “It’s beautiful and wonderful, and I have to give a lot of credit to Dale Chihuly. He caused an explosion of interest in glass as an art form.”

The number of glass collectors is increasing, says Duley. These pieces add color, whimsy and character to any home regardless of the architectural style or interior design.

The actual art of glass began in ancient Egypt and the Middle East. Glass-making techniques eventually spread to Europe, where the Venetians refined the technique and became the undisputed kings of the art form.

Chihuly, who is often lauded for creating large-scale pieces dominated by vibrant colors and multiple parts, put his mark on the medium in the late 1960s. He led the studio glass movement, which changed the emphasis in glass from the designer in the factory to individual artists.

In fact, Chihuly’s imprint is so profound it’s common to hear people use the word “Chihuly-ish” to describe the works of other glass artists.

“For 5,000 years people have been playing with glass,” says Grover, who began his glass career after seeing a Chihuly documentary. “People didn’t understand what to do with it until someone like Chihuly started blowing.”

Still, not every homeowner can afford to pay the one-of-a-kind price. There are affordable options for homeowners who want to incorporate glass into their decor. Copenhagen Imports has a collection of glass pieces by artists in Eastern Europe and Asia that are priced under $100.

“We’re now a global marketplace,” says Elizabeth Clay of Copenhagen Imports in northeast Phoenix. “I see the Asian market being strong for the next 10 years.”

In addition to pieces by Chihuly and Grover, the McGills have works by Stephen Powell, Bob and Laurie Klass and Debra Moore. They’ve stopped collecting for now because they’ve run out of space.

“Unless you’ve got a place to show it,” says McGill, “what’s the point?”

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