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How glassblowing is changing lighting design

Lighting is one of the most versatile tools in interior design. Light fixtures can do much more than just illuminate a space; a beautiful fixture’s unique design can transform a room.

Hand-blown chandeliers, sconces and pendants are dynamic works of art that double as functional light fixtures. The Eaton lighting division team talked with Matt Janke, owner of Atlanta’s Janke Glass Studio, to learn more about this unique craft and how the glass movement is changing interior design.

What inspired you to pursue glass blowing as a career?

The glass itself is a precious material. I was a jeweler for nearly a decade before I became a glassblower, and I always thought glass had a gem-like quality. I was also drawn to the physical aspect of creating hand-blown glass; shaping and making the glass into beautiful things is almost an athletic process.

When I moved to Atlanta in 1986, I discovered that the city had no glassblowers or glassblowing studios. I focused on building my career as a jeweler, but I never gave up on my dream of opening my own glassblowing shop. In 1990, I moved my family back to my native Ohio, where I earned my master’s degree in glassblowing at Kent State University. When I returned to Atlanta two years later, I had the credentials and skills needed to begin building my studio.

How does lighting provide another palette for glass blowing?

Glass is a natural medium for lighting designers because of its propensity to shape light. Glassblowers can craft glass such that it reflects, deflects and changes light. The ability to work with vibrant colors and interesting patterns adds an entirely different dimension as well.

How does art glass broaden the field of lighting design?

When glass-blown lighting is incorporated into a space, the glass is the bling. As a former jeweler, I think of art glass as the jewel of the room. It’s eye-catching candy, and it can turn a room from ordinary to extraordinary.

As a glassblower creating lighting designs, what are things you have to keep in mind?

Lighting serves an important function, so we have to always consider functionality before we ever get into form. Marrying workable function with beautiful form is at the heart of our craft, and the best designs achieve both quality and presentation.

What are some important aspects about the science of glassblowing?

Experienced craftsmen follow a set of checks and balances to ensure the glass can stand up to the heat generated by glassblowing. For example, we’ve worked to master the annealing process in order to avoid problems. Annealing is a heat treatment that alters the physical – and sometimes chemical – properties of the glass to make it softer and able to stand up to stress. Skipping the annealing process leaves glass vulnerable to cracking or shattering in response to temperature changes or shock. That’s why annealing is crucial for durability.

How do your lighting creations make people feel?

Art glass can be subtle, or it can steal the show. Whether they incorporate clear or colored glass, the glass-blown lighting fixtures we create invite people into a space.

Talk about the inspiration behind your work for Eaton’s lighting division. What inspired you to come up with the colors, shapes and other aspects?

Developing all of the different finishes was a process. Because of the variety of colors and patterns, we started naming the finishes after ice cream.

The majority of the inspiration for the work I do with Eaton’s lighting division likely stems back to my original training and career as a jeweler. I believe that beautiful, functional glass-blown lighting can truly be the jewel of the space.

What do you love most about your job?

I enjoy working as a glassblower, because every day is a challenge. Shaping and molding glass without breaking it is a learned skill. But more than anything, I love exploring the endless possibilities of glass as an art form, and bringing those possibilities to my customers.