An effervescent cascade of white glass bubbles intermixed with delicate glass teardrops flows down from the ceiling in front of a crimson wall. The 14 feet of dynamic handblown glass pieces illuminated and suspended with delicate wiring is called Crystal Mist, and it is the careful work and vision of David Gappa, owner of Gappa Fine Art Glass. Read more »
Saturday, March 27 10:00am – 5:00pm Only $85 per person!
Here’s your chance to be an authentic ‘glassblower’ without the typical ‘authentic’ expense or even time commitment!
Because of the tremendous response to our workshops, we’re offering a ‘cliff notes version’ glassblowing experience to the public (age 18 or older).
On March 27, we will sponsor ‘Glass Play Day’. For just $85, you will be allowed to work with the glassblowers for a limited time period that day. You will work at a lampwork torch to make a glass bead from scratch as well as assisting at the large furnace and glory hole to make a small paperweight. For each of these, you will be able to choose from a selection of 4 pre-mixed color schemes, making your creations truly personalized!
Because this is a one day offering and each client will work one-on-one with his/her instructor, we have very limited slots available. If you want to ‘feel the heat’, please let us know as soon as you can… pre-registration is required. (Please plan to arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled time to cover safety precautions and complete paperwork.)
While results will vary greatly, we certainly guarantee this to be fun, and we very much look forward to sharing our world with you!
DETAILS Participation in Glass Play Day is limited to adults age 18 or over. Glass Play Day is made available for clients to experience working with hot glass, not necessarily create completed works of art. The instructors will work toward a goal of the client being able to take home items made, but note that not all beads nor paperweights will be successful through the creation and/or annealing processes. The curriculum for Glass Play Day is preset and not customizable, but please inform your instructor if you have previous hot glass experience. Please allow approximately 2 weeks for your items to be ready for pick-up. Shipping is available at an additional charge.
CANCELLATION: Registration and prepayment are required. If you need to cancel for any reason, please do so by noon on Thursday, March 25 to receive a full refund. Cancellations made after noon on March 25 are non-refundable. Cancellations must be made by calling 817.251.1668 and speaking with a Vetro team member. While you are welcome to leave a voicemail message, this will not be considered a full cancellation without speaking with an actual person. Please do not email or fax your cancellation.
David Gappa, left, and Kevin Doerner work on a piece Photograph by John P. Uzzel
Red hot, molten glass reflects in the lenses of bright yellow sunglasses, worn by a man who carefully spins a long, steel pipe. The roar of a furnace fills the room, as does the heat that emanates from its more than 2,000 degree temperature. As he twirls the pipe, the molten glass on the other end cools and takes shape in the same way an earthenware vase might result from a potter’s movements.
For exactly 10 years, Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery has produced glass arts – combining both form and function – that have found their way into Dallas and Fort Worth medical centers, homes nationwide, galleries and a prince’s palace in Saudi Arabia. “Glass is so mystical,” said David Gappa, owner of the Grapevine studio. “It’s been around for centuries. Everyone experiences glass, we know what it is – we have a glass of water – but none of us has a clue about how this art form originated. Most of what we do here is purely educating our general public about what this art form is, what glass is.”
Gappa and his staff of five glass blowers and four who tend to the gallery oversee an operation that involves precious metals, extreme temperatures and an art medium that is growing in popularity and yet, for the most part, no different than it was in Italy all those centuries ago. (The studio’s name, Vetro, is ‘glass’ in Italian.)
“I’ve always been an artist,” Gappa said. “From age 5, I was painting, drawing, sculpting. I had full intentions of becoming a painter and throughout my studies in school that drew me toward engineering and then architecture.” When finishing up his last years at University of Texas at Arlington, securing a master’s degree in architecture, he took several glass classes just for fun when they first were being offered at the university. “It really grabbed hold of my heart just full force,” Gappa said.
Gappa worked in architecture for 10 years at Fort Worth’s Quorum Architects Inc., all the while pursuing his appreciation for glass arts on the side – building machines, organizing a co-op to help with costs, perfecting his craft. One month ago, he stepped down from Quorum Architects to pursue the trade full-time without distraction. “So, here we go,” he said, laughing.
Vetro Glassblowing existed for five years about a block off Main Street. Eventually, it made known its intentions to expand, possibly with a move into other cities, Gappa said, but the city of Grapevine stepped up to secure its ongoing presence by rehabilitating an old farmers’ market into the glass studio’s present home.
The layout of the studio is three-fold: exposure, education and experience. Visitors can peruse the range of glass pieces at the storefront, such as vases, chandeliers, paper weights, decorative vessels and jewelry. They can learn about the process by taking a seat on the bleachers facing the production area, where artists might be producing a large-scale installation or something smaller. Or, they can take part in the process, too. For example, guests can make their own Christmas tree ornament for $25.
Working with glass involves patience, concentration and the acceptance that the medium often can have a mind of its own. (The occasional burn is a part of the process, too.) Pieces can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to produce, but then they must be placed in an annealer, which slowly cools them from more than 900 degrees down to ambient, for about half a day’s time. It’s a complicated process.
“Glass is by far one of the most difficult mediums to master and to work through because of the expediency of it,” Gappa said. “One mistake can cost you a lot of time, money and effort.” Sometimes, gallery visitors will admire the glass works, but cringe at the price tags, often in the thousands of dollars. Confusion sets in, Gappa said, and they wonder how anyone could charge so much for a particular piece. Then they make their way through to the production room, where they might sit and take it all in for a moment. “They see Kevin or myself or one of my other staff members rolling that molten form, they’re completely awed by what that medium is,” Gappa said. “And then as they start going out the door, they look at the same piece they just balked at and say, ‘You know what? I will never be able to afford that piece, but I completely understand and value what that vessel is now.’ That means the world to us.”
LOCAL GLASS ARTISTS MAKE A SPECIAL PRESENTATION TO BARBARA BUSH
David Gappa presents Glass Vase to Barbara Bush
Local artists David Gappa of Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery in Grapevine TX created a signature art glass piece that was presented to former first lady Barbara Bush last Tuesday, April 12. They were invited by The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Fort Worth TX to award the piece to Mrs. Bush as a “thank you” for her relentless support in cancer research as well as her participation as the guest speaker in the private, grand opening banquet celebration of The Center which opened in February 2005. Upon receiving the art piece, Mrs. Bush immediately expressed her gratitude and requested to personally meet the artists. “It was an incredible honor to be the ones selected for this opportunity. And then to be asked to go on stage to shake her hand and meet her was remarkable,” said artist and co-owner David Gappa. The artists created a large, contemporary-style vase with a red and black raked design, encircled by two large bands of clear glass. They felt that the strong impression of the colors, yet down-to-earth tone of the style fit well with Mrs. Bush’s personality. They created the piece at Vetro, their studio in Grapevine, just a few weeks prior to the event. “We take great strides and set high standards for the quality and unique style of our art glass pieces and installations,” says artist David Gappa. “Art should first be stunningly beautiful. Everything else is secondary. We used that same high standard for the piece for Mrs. Bush, and we’re flattered that she was so impressed.” In January, Texas Cancer Care (TCC), the organization responsible for the new Center, along with Quorum Architects, Inc., the firm responsible for the interior design of the facility, commissioned Gappa & Hayes to create an art glass installation to be the focal point of their Meditation Room. Barry Russo, executive director of TCC, sought for a design that would incorporate the facility’s mission: “To truly be a place where cancer patients can receive treatment for body and soul – the whole person…a place of learning, and one of hope and healing.” Composed of an intricately designed matrix of approximately 50 cast glass panels with a blown and cast rondel as its centerpoint, this installation, appropriately named “Hope and Healing”, achieves that mission. “For us, this is a composition in color and texture meant to instill a sense of profound peace within the viewer,” says Gappa. Click here for more information about the installation “Hope & Healing”. The artists’ facility, Vetro Glassblowing Studio and Gallery is the first studio of its kind in the DFW area to showcase works of art created in its own facility as well as pieces made by internationally acclaimed artists. Vetro, having quickly become a major tourist attraction, is also the only glassblowing studio and gallery in the Metroplex that routinely encourages the public to join them in the studio to witness the magic of this ancient art form. Visit www.VetroArtGlass.com or call 817.251.1668 to learn more about the ‘hottest’ place in the Metroplex.
Local artists David Gappa of Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery in Grapevine TX created a signature art glass piece that was presented to former first lady Barbara Bush last Tuesday, April 12. They were invited by The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Fort Worth TX to award the piece to Mrs. Bush as a “thank you” for her relentless support in cancer research as well as her participation as the guest speaker in the private, grand opening banquet celebration of The Center which opened in February 2005. Upon receiving the art piece, Mrs. Bush immediately expressed her gratitude and requested to personally meet the artists. “It was an incredible honor to be the ones selected for this opportunity. And then to be asked to go on stage to shake her hand and meet her was remarkable,” said artist and co-owner David Gappa. Read more »
“I’ll swing the door open, and you can see what Hades looks like,” says David Gappa as he opens the portal to a furnace.
The heat is, indeed, furious enough, and the light intense enough to make a visitor step back, much like a newly deceased sinner might recoil at hell’s entrance.
It’s an apt little verbal jest, and one that Gappa, owner of Vetro Glass in Grapevine’s historic downtown area, has no doubt made hundreds of times. For as much as Gappa was answering a call to his artistic soul when he scrapped a career designing buildings to become a glass blower, so he was answering a call to spread the word about glass blowing when he opened his working studio to the public.
Gappa, 36, got fired up about glass when he took a glass-blowing class as an elective while working on a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. He says he found molten glass “seductive” and the combination of physical, mental and artistic challenge to be unbeatable.
After his wife kicked his glassmaking out of the garage, Gappa opened a studio in a small space in Grapevine. As the business grew, he thought about leaving for quarters in Fort Worth or Dallas, but the tourism folks at the city of Grapevine had another idea: They urged Gappa to move to a larger space in the Heritage Complex, beside the city’s Historic Railroad District, and to allow tourists to drop in and watch the glass-blowing process, making the demonstrations as much a part of the business as the products.
Gappa liked the idea of involving an audience. He designed a studio that he believes “surrounds the public in glass.” As guests step into the studio, they see walls of vases, flowers, rondels and abstract works produced by Vetro artists and by other artists on display. Overhead is a large installation titled Elysian Shadows that was originally created for a Fort Worth gallery. But up front is where the show is. Rows of bleachers can hold as many as 40 people who can watch as Gappa’s staff goes about the fascinating and slightly scary business of shaping molten glass. The glass blowers narrate as they proceed, talking about the 2,000-plus-degree temperatures of the furnaces, explaining how color is added (chromium for yellow, cobalt for blue, gold and copper for red), demonstrating how the “bubble” is put in and the shaping done, and describing the cooling process, which takes an entire day and must be carefully controlled or the glass will fracture.
“These tools we use are the same tools that have been used for centuries,” Gappa tells an audience. “A glass blower from the 16th century could come into the studio and he’d know exactly what to do.”
It hasn’t always been this way with glass blowers. They haven’t always been open about their craft. Many still aren’t, in fact.
“Glass is such a mysterious and underground sort of medium,” says Gappa. “It is a cloistered trade. The reason Murano [Italy] developed — it’s an island — besides worry about fire, was to protect the trade secrets. If they left the island, they would be executed.
“That mentality remains in Italy,” says Gappa. “I wanted to break that.”
It’s a move that has worked out well for both Vetro and Grapevine. The tourists, individuals and groups, that come to the Main Street Grapevine area buy little things from Vetro — glass flowers, oil lamps, small vases — which range in price from about $10 to $100. Vetro, in turn, makes a visit to Grapevine more exciting than a simple shopping trip.
“It adds an arts component that we were missing,” says George Kakos, assistant executive director for the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You actually get to see how that art is put together. To some extent it’s interactive, you don’t get to blow that glass, but you are part of the experience.”
It would be incorrect, however, to imply that the tourist trade is all, or even most of what there is to Vetro. Gappa, whom a staff member describes as a workaholic, takes his art seriously, and that means creating large vessels and high-end sculptural pieces, ranging from about $250-$1,000, for collectors, as well as commissioned installations for places like a cancer-care-facility chapel in Fort Worth and a condominium development in North Carolina. Installations can run as high as $12,000. He’s working on a bid for an installation at a private palace in Saudi Arabia.
The ponytailed Gappa, who says on his Web site that he “seeks the Spirit of God” in his art, recently won the best in theme award in a juried art festival sponsored by a Presbyterian group. Gappa and his team created a glass triptych illustrating the “Sower of the Seed” parable. It’s the second year in a row the studio’s won the prize.
For a man who seeks God in glass, sharing the gospel of glass blowing also means training disciples in the trade. Vetro has three full-time and two part-time glass blowers. “My entire staff is pretty much people who came in and experienced glass, and I taught them from the bottom up,” says Gappa. Travis Reid is now a full-time staff member but back in 2000 he was an interested observer who “showed up every day just to watch us work. We started putting him to work on little things here and there,” Gappa says.
Glass blower Randy Strait, who creates glass art at a studio in California, says Gappa taught him about glass as well as life lessons about things like hard work and focus. “I used to come up there and sweep the floors and do clean up, and then he would show us how to do things,” Strait says.
It’s that required focus, the beauty and even the serendipity of glass — each piece is unique and even the most skilled artisan can’t completely control the outcome — that draws Gappa to glass blowing.
“You have to work with a material that is constantly in motion, and you have to create and make decisions both aesthetically and physically right then and there.”
David Gappa and Xavier are attending Dallas‘ black tie gala of the year – “Cotes du Coeur” benefitting the American Heart Association. Xavier and Gappa created the prestigious “One in a Million” wine decanter which will be presented during the gala to American Heart Association volunteer Ron W. Haddock.