Studio art glass refers to handmade glass objects made by an individual or a small team of artists rather than mass-produced pieces that are part of a line of products. Glass artists, as they are known, include glassblowers, stained-glass artists, and people who practice various cold-working techniques, from sandblasting to engraving.

The American branch of this international movement is not that old, usually dated to 1962, when a University of Wisconsin-Madison ceramics professor named Harvey Littleton taught a glassblowing workshop at the Toledo Museum of Art. By that fall, Littleton was teaching glassblowing to his Madison students. Some of the biggest names in American studio glass would pass through Littleton’s program, including Dale Chihuly, Marvin Lipofsky, and Fritz Dreisbach.

At first, Littleton’s own work riffed on classic art-glass forms, but by the 1970s he was fusing, cutting, and polishing glass in an effort to almost freeze it in its molten state. The pieces he made as a part of his Arc series in the 1980s are perhaps his best-known works.

Marvin Lipofsky was equally influential, teaching glass to students at both the University of California, Berkeley, and at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California, whose glass program he founded in 1967. Among his students were Dick Marquis and Benjamin Moore, both of whom were highly influenced—albeit in very different ways—by Italian art glass techniques associated with artisans working on the island of Murano.

For his part, Lipofsky’s work evolved into rounded shapes that were blown into molds and then cut and cold-worked later, in the tradition, if not the manner, of Littleton.

Meanwhile, on the east coast, Dale Chihuly graduated in 1969 from the glass program at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. By 1971 he had helped found the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle, Washington. There, in 1974, Moore met Chihuly, with whom he worked, on and off, along with Richard Royal, William Morris, Flora Mace, Joey Kirkpatrick, and other many other artists in the 1970s and ’80s.

After earning his own MFA from RISD and spending a couple of summers working at the Venini glass factory in Murano, Moore found his own aesthetic. Unlike Chihuly, who took his in...

Fritz Dreisbach also mined Italian techniques to create his art. In particular, Dreisbach excelled at using twisted, colored rods of glass—which are often sliced and then reformed to create murrine or millefiori pieces—as the foundations for impossibly heavy vases. At the other extreme, Dreisbach blew impossibly delicate crystal goblets that he’d festoon with his uniquely curious hot-worked decorations.

In recent years, a new crop of U.S. studio glass artists has achieved international recognition. Among them is Dante Marioni, whose technical precision and unerring sense of artistry can be seen in pieces such as his Reticello Leaf Vases from 2007.

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