It’s like throwing ceramics, but doing it on a skateboard.
- Nate Cotterman on glassblowing
We're talking with our friend and fellow Midwesterner, Nate Cotterman. We worked with Nate to develop a display piece (shown above) for the 12Meter collection. We had a chance to sit down with Nate to hear about his creative process, how he traded snow for sunshine and how he isn’t necessarily doing what he set out to do.
What inspired you to take on glassblowing as a hobby and then as a profession? What was the spark?
To be honest, I never intended to pursue glassblowing. I started at the Cleveland Institute of Art with a focus in industrial design. My second year I signed up for a studio elective in glassblowing, not realizing the rigorous time commitment involved. I actually tried to get out of it, but all the industrial design classes were full. I stuck it out and the work really kept my interest. The physical and mental aspects of glassblowing don’t allow for boredom, so I found it easy to focus on because if you aren’t focused then everything goes to shit.
What was your career trajectory post-Cleveland Institute of Art?
I worked in a studio in Cleveland post-graduation but I wasn’t doing a lot of the actual glassblowing. A few years after I graduated, I met fellow glassblower Joe Cariati, who was looking for artists help him produce his work. A month later, I moved to California to help Joe. It’s a win-win situation, I’m able to hone my skills working for Joe, but I also have the resources to pursue my own projects and work closely with other artists.
Your studio space - 141 Penn Studios - works as a collective. What is your experience working around other artists who are in the same field?
Currently there are 4 of us in studio. It allows us to the share the burden of maintaining and running a glass shop - not a cheap endeavor. It’s an intimate setting and there are typically 3 of us on the floor at one time. LA doesn’t necessarily have a large glassblowing community - those tend to be focused in Seattle, WA, Asheville, NC, Portland, OR - so it’s nice to have that comradery here.
What is the hardest thing about being a glassblower?
It’s physically and mentally exhausting.
We’re entranced by your Constructions of Reality series. What was the inspiration behind this work?
I wanted to focus on re-examining everyday objects, making them a little less mundane and overlooked. In Constructions of Reality, I took objects seen as disposable (cigarettes, coffee cups, beer bottles) and worked then into glass pieces making them more precious. I enjoy experimenting with other materials and in this series I was able to incorporate oil paint along with gold and silver leaf.
Could you talk a bit more about your process? At Drift it takes us two days and about two man-hours to make a frame. What’s the timeline on a typical piece for you?
Typically an object doesn’t take more than an hour of actual glassblowing. One person preps and the other person blows the glass. In production we put away a piece about every fifteen minutes. Once it’s cooled to a certain temperature, you can begin to work the glass down. In production we like to keep the post process to a minimum. However, in more sculptural bottles and constructions, like Constructions of Reality, production can take a whole week.
Beyond glass blowing, what are you into? Do you work in any other media professionally?
Skateboarding has been a hobby since I was a kid. I’m always messing around with metalworking, woodworking and casting, essentially trying to make new pieces that incorporate other materials. Right now I’m working on a lighting project with a friend. I like working on other projects that function on a different speed than glassblowing - it keeps things interesting.
What are you listening to right now?
Rap music. Anything without an electric guitar.
Check out more of Nate’s work on his website here.