Marc Petrovic & Kari Russell-Pool

Marc Petrovic & Kari Russell-Pool

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Kari Russell-Pool, Eternally Yours-Daisies, 2007

Every day, in the small, pic­turesque village of Essex, Connecticut, the glass artists Marc Petrovic and Kari Russell-Pool send their two daughters off to school, enter their non­descript 1,700-square-foot studio and work side by side until the children return at 3:00 p.m. The husband and wife, who first met in 1987 at the Cleveland Institute of Art, have worked closely for years, while at the same time maintaining a certain independence that allows them to distinguish one person's work from the other's. Russell-Pool's pieces are predominantly flame-worked, while Petrovic's are primarily blown and combined with wood, metal or found elements. "Marc's work is very diverse, as far as style goes, and is for the most part narrative," Russell-Pool says of their different approaches. "Mine has a definite style and is more readily identified as my own. I also work narratively, but I have a strong decorative side."

These differences may arise from personal inspiration. "My work often stems from being a woman, a mother and a wife. It's grounded in the here and now of my life." Russell-Pool says. "I have a beauty aesthetic; there's enough ugliness in the world." That beauty can be seen in her use of color-she admits to being enjoyably obsessed with the subtle variations that come with creating her unique color palette. Neither color nor beauty is the focus for Petrovic. "Glass, more than any other material, is championed because of its virtuosity and color," he says. "I don't want my work to be about beauty." Petrovic's aversion to color may come naturally, since he recently discovered he is color-blind-an eye-opening (to say the least) realization of why he has struggled with certain color palettes all his life. Beyond this, though, is a passion to create something that helps him address his own life questions. His Distilled Life series, for example, consisting of clear bottles containing groupings of glass objects, is an effort to understand identity and relationships.

For all their differences, however, Petrovic and Russell-Pool both emphasize the influence they have on one another. "I think each of our work complements the other's," says Russell-Pool. "It looks good displayed together and similar elements crop up. I can't recall who began using text first, but we have both been doing it, in very different ways."

The couple do occasionally collaborate, and they depend on each other's opinions and insight, because of their deep mutual respect and trust. "We use each other as sounding boards," says Petrovic, though he acknowledges that there can be a moment of self-consciousness when he asks for an opinion. "I tend to be needy when I make something." Russell-Pool also admits to being sensitive to criticism at times, but, she points out, "our critiques are never mean-spirited; they are meant to serve the process of helping the other be a better maker."

"The nice thing about our arrangement," she adds, "is we can steal the best bits of each other's work for ourselves, and it's okay."