Dominika Petrýlová, a glasswork student at Prague’s UMPRUM, has, despite her age, gained a lot of success both in the Czech Republic and abroad.
Along with Dominika, we prepared the ‘Sea Slug’ lights installation at our Vnitroblock store in Prague. Thanks to its work with lighting and its reflection it emits a soft glow. The installation shines a light (no pun intended) on glassblowers’ art and embodies Dominika’s vision.
Dominika met with Michal Bým, Footshop’s Retail Visual Merchandiser to talk about her inspirations, creative process and other subjects, such as ancient techniques of glass decoration.
How did you get to glasswork and where does your inspiration come from?
Originally, I didn’t want to work with glass – I wanted to be a painter or an illustrator and study in Prague, but I couldn’t because of the distance between school and where I lived. My parents gave me a choice – high school in Jičín or the closest art school to Jičín, which was either stonemasonry in Hoøice, or glasswork in Železný Brod. So I picked Železný Brod, where they had a specialization in glass painting.
Apart from that, I also learned oil painting there. I had a great teacher who recognised my interest in this. My inspiration comes from my immediate surroundings, which can be people, events, architecture, a specific place or nature. Practically anything, but it has to make an impression on me.
What kinds of things can you make from glass? Does it have its own inherent limitations?
You can make a lot of things out of glass. It does have its limits, but what’s great is that you can experiment a lot. These experiments can lead you to something new, and as a result new techniques of working with glass are constantly appearing.
Are there any key skills a glassworker needs to have?
You have to want to create. Often times you’ll run into some obstacles and it’s hard. Glasswork isn’t about an individual person, its about multiple people that have to be able to cooperate together. The most important thing a glass designer needs to have an overview of is the technology.
Do you do any commission work apart from your own creations?
I mainly focus on my own work, because that’s what I enjoy the most. But when someone comes up and tells me they like my style and would like something specific from me, it’s also great, because I get to go through someone else’s thought process, and I have to adjust my style to that. Witnessing someone else’s thought process is very interesting. Sometimes people want me to make, for example, a glass award and that’s cool too.
The Nudibranch installation challenges the notion about glasswork being about functional design. Could you describe the creative process behind it?
I wanted to create something strange and peculiar, because I don’t really like average so-and-so things. A sea slug is quite a peculiar thing, so that was what inspired me to make this installation. It wasn’t just me, I had to get in contact with people who know the technique of freely shaping glass by hand. I told them how to do it – what color I wanted, how to bend the slug’s antenna and so on. Then i enlisted other people, who helped me with silvering and creating the stainless steel components, so Nudibranch is actually a collaboration between multiple people.
How do glassworks react these days when a student approaches them and wants to make something unorthodox like this?
Sometimes they’re excited to experience something new, they’re open to new ideas and help me. Sometimes they’re more dismissive and don’t want to work together. But mostly they’re happy that I get them out of a stereotype like blowing glass into wooden molds.
If I’m not mistaken, you do a part of the creative process yourself. Is that usual among glass designers or does this approach differentiate you from the other ones and let you implement your ideas faster?
It depends. Some people have, for example, a high school diploma and some people actually studied glasswork, so they can do a part of it – grinding, engraving, or, like me, painting it. Those are all techniques a person has to learn and be able to do. You also need tools and a workshop, which isn’t granted. This means some people just make the design and outsource all the production, so they aren’t really part of the finished product. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I personally want to work on at least part of the creative process. It gives me more of a personal relationship with the result.
Can you describe glass painting and the technique used in it a bit more specifically?
Glass painting is an ancient traditional technology from central Europe. The paint can’t be bought at a store, it has to be prepared and fine-tuned using turpentine and screen printing paint, so there’s a bit of alchemy involved before you can work with it. The color also often changes during the heating process (with temperatures around 560 degrees Celsius), after which a smaller layer of glass appears on the glass. Glass painting involves a long and complicated preparation process that has to be done correctly. After that, it’s up to the manual dexterity and imagination used during the painting itself.
What kinds of places does glassworking take you? Do you limit yourself to your workshop?
My work, or more specifically, the part where I paint, has to take place in the workshop. There are a lot of requirements, like the already mentioned preparation, or a kiln that has to be heated up to specific temperatures. Apart from that though, I think about glass and glasswork all the time. My imagination isn’t limited to the studio. I often find myself walking around town and an idea that i want to realize flashes through my mind.
Thanks to your talent, you got to present your work outside of the Czech Republic. What was that like?
It was a great experience. It’s mainly because of UMPRUM that I could exhibit my work in Milan and London. There’s always the possibility that an art promoter notices you and you can have your own exhibitions. That’s how I got to Milan and London again, this time around without the help of my school.
Probably every creative mind has their dream “project”. Do you have one?
My dream project is always the one after the finished one. That means that currently, my dream project is my next one. Once it’s finished, it’ll be the one after that.
Stop by our Vnitroblock store to see the installation with your own eyes!