Chaiah Sullivan has spent most of his 28 years as a resident of Paonia on Colorado’s Western Slope, a region comprised of high desert, sculpted cliffs and red rock country. It’s here amidst the solitude and the beauty of nature where Chaiah draws inspiration for his art.
Colorado may be best associated with aspen, spruce and evergreen trees, but hiking the desert trails in spring and summer reveals a kaleidoscope of blooming cactus flowers.
Chaiah fuses the otherworldly forms and bold colors into striking works of functional glass.
“I’ve grown up with cactus and they’ve been special to me. . . but I never expected to be the ‘cactus guy,’” says this torch worker who first started blowing glass in his garage more than a dozen years ago.
What sets Chaiah’s style apart is how he does the sculpting.
“As Robert Mickelson calls it, ‘hollow sculpting.” The inside of my pieces have pretty much the same contour on the outside,” Chaiah explains.
“I put all my ridges in, and then along each ridge I add dots; once those are all melted in, I pluck each spike out individually,” he adds.
“Sometimes I do get a little sick of plucking thousands of spikes over and over and over again. But once you see all your work come to fruition then it makes it all worth it.”
“It’s something about making it functional on top of it being a beautiful art piece that really pushes me,” Chaiah says.