Maker: Andy Paiko

Maker: Andy Paiko

Published on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. This article appears in the Winter 2022 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Claire Voon
Glass artist posing on ladder while installing work in windowed gallery space in new york city

Andy Paiko on a 30-foot ladder installing a chandelier made of over 200 pieces at Le Pavillon in New York City in June 2021, 30 x 16 x 16 ft. Photo by Emma Weaver, courtesy of Dot Dash Design.

Glass artist Andy Paiko has an alchemist’s knack for transforming glass into uncanny objects: a hammer, a spinning wheel, a scale. Not quite functional, each device is nevertheless convincing in its precision. For Paiko, who has been hand-blowing glass for nearly three decades, much of the pleasure of working with this fluid material lies in its see-through nature, which teases our understanding of reality.

“Transparency—that’s what draws me,” Paiko said. “I am less emotionally drawn to glasswork where the maker denies the light-bending qualities of glass. I like the sparkle and shine.”

series of ornately sculpted bell jars each containing a glass fragment of a different color

Paiko, who has been making bell jars for 25 years, still considers it both a dilemma and discovery to decide what goes inside. For Bell Jars with Muranese Cotisse, glass fragments were collected from the muddy island banks of Venice and Murano, Italy. Photo courtesy of the artist and LagunaB IT.

Paiko is best known for his bell jars that revel in this luminous nature of glass, at once evoking the stylish gadgetry of steampunk and the eerie reliquaries in Victorian curiosity cabinets. Over the last decade, the Portland-based artist has taken this love of sparkle further, literally illuminating glass in ornate chandeliers. Hanging several feet from ceilings, these stalactite-like fixtures teem with spiraling forms, textured orbs, and other biomorphic wonders.

Paiko finds inspiration in diverse sources, from jewelry made for maharajas to the sculptures of Isamu Noguchi; his chandeliers also conjure Karl Blossfeldt’s otherworldly plant photographs and Ruth Asawa’s wire mobiles. Like his other glass works, they do not fit neatly into any specific era.

Paiko began creating chandeliers in part because Philadelphia-based Wexler Gallery, which represents him, wanted to participate in more design fairs. The hanging form, however, has led Paiko to new frontiers of experimentation. For his first commission, Paiko had to figure out how to suspend more than 100 blown shapes from the ceiling with steel cable. “It’s like beads on a string,” he said. “Each component is discrete, not fused, and has a stop underneath that holds each in place so it’s amazingly safe.” He’s since played with scale and material, integrating brass, walnut, and rope; some chandeliers hold plants, doubling as living walls.

ornate glass chandelier made by andy paiko

Illuminated Sculpture #1, 9 x 6 x 6 ft., is designed for infinite configurations through its flexible, modular installation format. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“A lot of the art is in the decision-making—what pieces will be made of glass? How will these be positioned to make the best use of the space and light?” Paiko said. A recent commission for Daniel Boulud’s New York City restaurant Le Pavillon, for instance, had to unite with a 150-foot-tall ceiling; Paiko floated 300 glass components from 100-pound strings.

“They get big,” he said. “They can be clustered, they can be linear. But that modularity and adaptability of putting glass up in the air, into the light, is really taking me in another direction. The best part is there’s no limit.”

andypaikoglass.com | @andypaikoglass

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Cover of Winter 2022 issue of American Craft