Mexico City glass artist Orfeo Quagliata, known for his fine art, architectural installations, jewelry, furniture and tableware designs, recalls one act of youthful rebellion. “I studied geography for one semester in college,” he says.
That Quagliata–who wound up getting an industrial design degree from California College of the Arts–would go into art seemed preordained, given his genetics. His Italian father, Narcissus, is a well-known glass artist himself, one of the founders of the American studio glass movement. His Austrian maternal grandmother was Herta Jalkotzy, a Wiener Werkstätte jewelry maker. “My mother, who was a doctor, was also a quilter,” he explains.
Born in the Bay Area, Quagliata was raised in Project One, a San Francisco arts and technology commune. “I’ve been making glass since I was six,” says Quagliata. “When I was 16, I moved to Barcelona to apprentice with José Fernandez Castrillo.”
After several years of bouncing around the world, Quagliata opened Studio Orfeo Quagliata in 2000 in Mexico City, where his father had also relocated several years prior. “I love it here,” he says. “The people, the artists are amazing and the country is beautiful.”
Quagliata started out making tableware, then switched to jewelry before the grind of doing endless jewelry shows wore him down. He went into commissioned installations for homes, hotels and other public spaces, and expaanded his product line to include lighting, decorative objects and furniture.
Now with a studio that includes 25 associates, the artist works in all glass techniques, including blowing, casting, fusing, slumping and more. He’s also collaborated with different companies, including Waterworks, for which he created a line of tiles.
The Rasttro collaboration came about through a friendship with the firm’s principals. “I’m either very green or a hoarder,” says Quagliata. “I don’t throw any of the broken or leftover glass away. I kept thinking that I’d find a way to use it.”
With Rasttro, he did find a way to use the smaller bits of glass, incorporating it into cutting boards, lazy Susans and lighting. “I used to do wood furniture, so I can relate to what they needed at Rasttro to marry the glass with the wood. We bounce ideas off each other.”
The Rasttro work isn’t the only new thing up Quagliata’s sleeve. He’s experimenting with a casting technique and working with a ceramics company. He also just returned from France, where some of his fine art works were exhibited in Provence and Marseille.
Though most would disagree, Quagliata doesn’t view himself as an artist. “I’m an alchemist, really–not an artist, “ he says. “I just like to push the envelope when it comes to what can be done in glass.”
Orfeo Quagliata’s work as well as his collaboration with Rasttro is available at Amusespot.com.