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Artists in their own words: Ben Dombey

Ben Dombey (photo from glassblowerben)

Who: Ben Dombey

What: Glass blower

Where: By the tracks that divide Marigny and Bywater

 

Q: How do you find your breath changing from situation to situation?

BD: I’m able to customize all of my glasses, so the customization causes my breath to change each time. There are really only a few stages in the process where I’m blowing for a long period of time, and I become aware of my breath at that point. Breathing while blowing glass has become rather natural for me, so I don’t think about it as much anymore.

There are times, though, when you are blowing for a second, and if you breath in at the wrong time you can cause some damage--not to yourself but to the object you are creating. There is this myth about sucking in when blowing glass--like you are going to breath in hot, molten glass-- but you can absolutely suck when you blow glass. It actually creates a really cool effect on the object.

The danger comes more from blowing the glass too far.Dale Chihuly, whose one of the biggest names in glass blowing, actually was giving a demonstration where he was making a giant sphere out of glass. They were using compressed air to blow up the bubbles, and it was so large that it exploded violently due to too much compressed air. Then you have hot, razor sharp glass flying through the air.

I definitely want to avoid that.

Q: Whose voice would you like to have read all audiobooks you ever listen to.

BD: Alec Guinness. He played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars. He has such a soothing voice, and he is a solid old-school actor.

I think he would play all the parts really well no matter what the book called for. He could be deceitful, soothing, or anything, and I think he would do it well.

Q: What is something on your desk that you never use, but it still is on your desk?

BD: I have piles of unopened envelopes on my desk that I never use. I don’t even open them because nothing good comes in the mail. Usually. Every once in awhile you get a surprise check, but everything else is all about how you owe money. Those envelopes are full of real life, and I don’t want to know what’s inside of them.

I also have a couple of glass paperweights that I never use. I guess those objects are little reminders of people, places, or things we should be thinking about. Those paperweights remind me of my time at grad school. It’s shaped like a bundle of muscle fibers or a giant Twizzler, and it’s been sitting there untouched for probably two years.

I don’t really like my desk too much, so I have a whole bunch of things on it that  I never use. Playing with glass is what I like to do, and sitting at my desk doesn’t allow that, so I try to avoid it.

Q: What shape do you wish you could create?

BD: I’m a big fan of möbius strips, and even though those do exist, they are this interesting three-dimensional continuous loop with only one side. It’s a fascination of mine, and M.C. Escher drew a lot of them.

Right now, I’m in the process of making a three-dimensional fancy mold to make a glass with a crescent moon indentation that is made to hold a cigar. That way your glass can functiong as a drink and cigar holder. I can’t actually make this glass by hand, so I have to have the aid of different materials, so in that way I’m creating a shape that I can’t actually create.

I must say, this was not my idea. A designer approached me about it, and now I’m going to create it.

Q: When do you find that you take breaks?

BD: Breaks are trouble. I don’t really take breaks. Normally I won’t take breaks because I’m used to renting studio time by the hour. It’s really expensive, so when I was working on rented time, I wouldn’t even stop to take a piss because that would be a $5 piss. I got trained to work three to five hours without ever taking a break.

In grad school, I would work all night. I would look outside and somehow the sun would be coming up, and I had no idea that so much time had passed.

Now that I have my own studio and an assistant, that doesn’t happen as often, and I do actually take breaks. I opened the studio at the end of April, so in a way, it hasn’t really hit me that I have a studio I can go to at any time. But it’s sinking in. And when I’m in there with the glass, I lose the concept of time and get into the flow state very easily. It’s like time stops.

 

To learn more about Ben Dombey as well as view and purchase his glass, you can check out his website glassblowerben.com. To see his new projects and studio hours, you can also follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at kelley@nolavie.com.