Master Glassblower Aaron Tate

Quick, guess what this is? A Venetian glass compote? Think again. This gorgeous hand blown glass piece was made in Dallas by one of the top glass makers in the country, Aaron Tate, who recently moved here from Seattle where he was head gaffer (glass blower) at Seattle Glass Blowing Studio. He also apprenticed for many years under the great Dale Chihuly, later working at his studio.
Aaron's hot shop is in a warehouse off Walnut Hill Lane near I35.

Aaron is making a lavender lamp, which was designed by Catherine Miller, a Dallas decorative lighting and accessories designer who also reps Aaron. All glass pieces start with a bubble of clear molten glass, which is blown carefully with the aid of a long blow pipe, such as the one Aaron is holding.
Molten glass like this is around 2,200 degrees fahrenheit -- Aaron often works only inches away from it and he never wears gloves.

The lamp is for one of Catherine's clients, designer Michelle Meredith. The man assisting Aaron is one of maybe a dozen apprentices at the shop, and he'll blow into the end of the pipe while Aaron shapes the lamp. Aaron teaches glass blowing once a week, but call the shop for details.
It takes several hours to blow a lamp, then it must cool overnight. Next, the lamp will be wired and installed on a Lucite base. In total, the turnaround time for a custom designed, hand made glass lamp is only 2-4 weeks, Catherine says.
Some of the interesting tools glass blowers use to clip and shape the hot glass.

These are the kind of colors you only get when something is hand blown.

Each piece starts out with a dollop of clear molten glass, to which pieces of super-heated colored glass bars like this are added. When it's molten, Aaron snips off the amount he wants to use. The more color you add, the darker it gets.

More colored glass bars.
These gray-violets are amazing, aren't they?

Many of Catherine's designs include decorative bubbles and ruffles, which are quickly becoming a signature look for Aaron.

Want to see more? Catherine is having a trunk show Wednesday October 21 - Friday October 23 at Elements.
Catherine shows us a sketch she design for a wall sculpture made from glass bubbles and gold leaf, which Aaron is in the middle of creating. Click on the photo to see details.

Glass tree ornaments designed by Catherine. The pink ones benefit the Komen Foundation. Catherine was diagnosed a year ago with breast cancer. As you can see below, she's doing great now.
At left, glassblower Carlyn Ray with Catherine, seated. Twenty-eight year-old Carlyn's family owns The Carlyn Galerie, which was named after her. Carlyn saw her first piece of glass blown at age six and immediately announced that she wanted to be a glass blower when she grew up. She's been blowing glass for 9 years now, having apprenticed with Dale Chihuly among other top glass artists. She has the coolest job working for Celebrity Cruises as a glass artist for their floating hot glass shows, traveling the world and making beautiful glass things.

These are some drinking glasses Carlyn made at Aaron's hot shop while I was visiting. A friend of hers is getting married and the family asked her to create 12 hand blown glasses for the bride and groom.

This is Aaron's colleague from Seattle, fellow glass blower David Contreras. Catherine is hoping to convince David to relocate here.

An uncannily realistic sea turtle that David made the day before and had just pulled out of the cooling tank while I was there.

He is made with gold and silver leaf, applied while hot.

David told me he spent weeks studying the anatomy of sea turtles in books before he tried to blow one.

This beautiful pink compote will be at the Elements trunk show this week.

Here's the finished lamp base, after it cooled for 24 hours, photographed by Catherine. Next, it gets a beige silk shade and some wiring.

Designer Catherine Miller and artist Aaron Tate.