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Art with more than a touch of glass

BY CHRIS CURTLAND | DECEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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Seated behind a torch emitting a 12-inch jet of blue flame, David Albery held a tube of molten glass in one hand and a coloring rod in the other.

The 31-year-old, donning a set of protective shades, began encircling the tube with a string of melting colored red glass, ending up with a hypnotically designed pipe to sell in his Iowa City store.

“This will either turn out, or it’ll break, and I’ll throw it against the wall,” he said.

Albery, the owner of Head Hunters Glass Inc., 114 1/2 E. College St., was demonstrating glass-blowing at his studio in Davenport, a practice he said he’s worked on for 10 years but has yet to perfect.

“I’m no master, because someone new always comes along with something that’ll boggle your mind,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.”

Albery will hold a similar demonstration at his shop in Iowa City’s Hall Mall on Dec. 12, where he plans to construct a few simple hand pipes. On display will be some of his own innovations: ninja turtles and Pacmen hand-etched into his glasswork, and tobacco pipes that resemble skulls, deformed heads, and even Frank the Rabbit from the film Donnie Darko.



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“My friend’s working on that one — it’s going to be my Christmas present,” he said, grinning.

The month of December will be busy for many glass-blowers and -makers as they gear up for an increase in sales during the holidays. In addition to that, Albery and business partner Nathaniel Dark will also prepare to head to Madison, Wis., for the Great Lakes Art Show, which features a trade show of glass work and a “flame-off.”

Dark said the two sell to the Konnexion, 106 S. Linn St., and the Den, 123 E. Washington St., but would like to expand their market.

“We’d like to branch out further from here and meet new legions,” he said.

Kelly Stucker, owner of the Konnexion, said she buys from numerous blowers — some from as far as Oregon and Maine and some from the Midwest.

Albery and Dark are some of the few local glass artists — the two met in a glass-casting class at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.

Since then, after working in other shops and on other artists’ terms, Dark formed his own studio in 2004 with Albery’s help. The two are largely self-taught in glass-blowing. Now, Head Hunters is their main venture.

“This isn’t a secondary job or just a hobby,” Albery said. “It’s become a priority.”

They said they’re excited about the upcoming conference, especially watching the “flame-off” challenge. In the contest, 12 contestants have two days to present a “theme functional glass art piece.”

Albery and Dark plan to enter next year after scoping out this year’s show, though Dark said he’s bringing his gear just in case.

“If I’ve got the chance to throw down big, it’s always been go big or go home,” Dark said before displaying an elaborate device made up of eight different colored glass balls. “It’s the Head Hunters motto, really — we’re coming for your head.”

Albery and Dark can create anywhere from 100 to 300 glass works in a week, producing around $2,000.

The process of glass-blowing requires a balance between frustration and relaxation.

“For every big art piece you see in the shop, there’s one exactly like it in the trash,” Albery said.


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