With 20 years behind him as glass blower, Dylan Kelley had tried a bunch of different techniques from inside-out and wig wag to reticello. One day, he was brainstorming with a couple of buddies about sandblasting when a spark of inventiveness popped in his head that he could create function through imagery eliminating the need for external or internal tubing.
“Nobody had a clue what I was talking about,” he admits.
The intricacy and function of the designs are hard to capture with a camera. To truly appreciate Dylan’s line of Avant-Garde Art Glass you need to hold it in your hands and see the flow happening with your own eyes. But as he explains, water, smoke and air travel within the walls of the glass and the percolation comes from within the sandblasted designs. No need for down-stems or internal or external tubing. The imagery is a combination of trapped air and open passageways in the walls.
In addition to their unique function, these pieces of quality handmade glass have incredible attention to detail. They are made using high quality German Duran glass and have carefully crafted shaping and detailed features.
“Coming up with a new technique was cool in itself, but I also wanted to come up with a style that was very recognizable,” Dylan says. “Developing the sharp bevels in the designs was a difficult process to master. It took probably a year of doing it on a daily basis to figure out the nuances.”
Inspiration for the designs comes from Dylan’s interest in spirituality and sacred geometry.
“I’m all about aesthetically pleasing, symmetrical, eye catching designs,” he says. “That being said, I like to incorporate symbolism with expanded meanings.”
For example, Dylan explains that a Japanese Torii gate, the simplest of which consist of two vertical posts linked by two posts across the top, represent the entrance into a new world, moving from the realm of the everyday, mundane life into another higher realm.
“I’ve been labeled as a scientific glass blower, but I feel like my style is kind of a hybrid,” Dylan says. “With scientific you take a tube and add some parts to it, clean it up and it’s done. Every single inch of my pieces has been handcrafted and shaped into what it is.”
“Glass is magical. It’s called to me since I was a kid. I actually had a borosilicate collection as a child before I even knew what it was. My parents had a booth at the renaissance fest, and the glass blowers there would give me little trinkets. When I had the opportunity to blow glass, I didn’t even have to think twice about it even though I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” Dylan says. “It’s all about the little things and you never learn everything in one lifetime.”
As much as Dylan identifies as an artist, he’s also an entrepreneur. He hired a lawyer to patent his technique, which he trademarked, Avant-Tech, and he only offers his finished pieces through smoke shops, dispensaries and glass galleries.
“They do a way better job of selling my product than I ever could,” he says.
“I feel like my life’s focus was meant to be glass, but I don’t turn away from opportunities that come from it. I have a family and two employees to support,” Dylan says. “You have to flow with the industry and put yourself into position to stay relevant.”
“What I’d like to do is mesh the fine art and functional scenes,” he adds. “I try to put as much detail into my pieces as possible and create some super high end work that hasn’t really been seen before -–- my pieces may be functional, but I don’t see how you can consider them to be anything other than fine art.”