The Alchemy of Glass
For Philip Jacobs, love of art was instilled at an early age. Growing up in Washington, D.C., he was a frequent visitor to its many galleries and museums. When he went to the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he met his wife and fellow craftsman Karissa who would introduce him to the charms of New Hampshire. “I fell in love with the Mount Washington Valley,” he says.The two of them wound up in North Conway, where they established the Earth & Fire Studio Gallery, selling Philip’s glass and Karissa’s ceramics. Business thrived, and in 2006 they purchased the League of N.H. Craftsmen building and business on Main Street and created what they call “a beautiful fusion of the two.” Patrons can browse both galleries and at the same time get a close-up look at how Philip creates his glass.What attracted you to glassmaking? The fire!Why do you work solo rather than using assistance teams? I enjoy the solitude. It is like a meditation with fire, using similar movements to Tai Chi.What’s the most rewarding part of being a glassblower? The alchemy. I love transforming a gather of molten glass into something beautiful.The hardest part? In the beginning the hardest part of being a glassblower was dealing with the heat. Now that I am accustomed to it, the hardest part is the daily abuse I put my body through. It is a strenuous and physically demanding craft.How are glass techniques different from ancient times? Most of the techniques for working glass come directly from ancient times. The technology of the melting equipment is one of the only things that has changed.You say the White Mountains are an endless source of inspiration for you. How is that reflected in your work? I am attracted to natural colors, patterns and forms found in nature and I admire the way they are so perfectly balanced. When I design my glass I try to re-create that natural balance.How important are crafts like glassblowing to society? As with any hand formed craft, there is a reverence to the spirit of the artist instilled in the work. By appreciating something that has been thoughtfully considered and lovingly created, we learn to respect these objects in our life and appreciate the people who make them. When our objects have real value, they enrich our lives and nurture an appreciation for humanity at its very best. When our objects are factory-made for profit with poor quality, when the factory workers are mistreated and paid unfairly, what does that say about our collective respect for the earth and our fellow humankind?What do you hope for down the road? I would like to continue collaborating with designers and architects on large-scale commercial and residential lighting installations. I love my life here and look forward to many more years of making glass and enriching peoples’ lives.