About Sophietta

Who is the artist behind Sophietta?

Young glass-blowing Brian Barber   Older glass-blowing Brian Barber

Brian Barber (early photo on the left as a boy - current photo on the right) was born in 1975 in Flint, Michigan. While living in Germany as a child, he was exposed to glass for the first time on a class field trip to the Black Forest. He later studied glassblowing at Ohio State University and Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. He currently lives and works in Seattle.

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What materials are used to make the goblets?

We use Spruce Pine glass to make the goblets. That probably doesn't mean much to most people, so let me explain. There are numerous types of glass used in manufacturing and they vary depending on manufacturing process, application, cost, or just plain preference. When talking about hand-made glass, there are generally two types of glass used: soda-lime (which is what Spruce Pine is made from) and borosilicate glass (known as soft and warm glass, respectively). Soft glass is melted in a large furnace and is gathered out on the end of a long metal pipe. It is called "soft glass" because of its long working time. Once gathered out of a two thousand degree furnace, it can be manipulated for a couple of minutes before it freezes up. Borosilicate, or "warm" glass is melted and manipulated over an open torch or "flame worked" and comes in tube or rod form. Warm glass has a much shorter working time but is also more heat and stress resistant than soft glass. Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages. I've been trained in soft glass so that's the approach I use. Flame working is incredibly difficult, just like soft glass, and requires a whole other skill set. I have tried it before, and it wasn't pretty! I'll stick with what I know.

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Are there special tools or techniques used?

Present day glassblowing comes from a long tradition that reaches back roughly two thousand years. The furnaces and heating equipment used during the process have evolved with new developments in technology, but the hand tools used to actually shape glass have changed little in the last thousand years. There are a number of different technical approaches to glassblowing and each approach is steeped in its own traditions and philosophies.

Since the sixties and seventies American studio glass has evolved and developed into its own tradition by drawing upon many different philosophies and approaches to glass. It is important because before this time period the idea of "studio" glass was almost nonexistent. Glass blowing remained within the confines of the factory walls: numerous glassblowers working in teams, each with a specific job and making a specific product. It was American artists, namely Harvey Littleton that took the furnace out of the factory and put it in a studio so an individual artist could make one-of-a-kind pieces using techniques learned from all the philosophies and approaches that they had adopted.

One of the most important influences on American glass was from the Italian tradition. In the seventies, Dale Chihuly invited Italian glassblower Lino Tagliapietra to teach at his new glass school, Pilchuck. Lino returned year after year and soon became a teacher and mentor for many young American glassblowers. Although I have never been fortunate enough to work with Lino, some of his students have been my mentors. Luca Rattazzi managed the small factory in Seattle where I have been working since I moved to Seattle. He became more than just a boss, but a mentor for several years at Manifesto glass shop before moving on a couple of years ago. He graciously shared many of the tricks and insights he learned from his own experiences as well as the time he spent working directly with Lino, including some really great practical jokes.

Another teacher of mine who also worked with Lino has been Dante Marioni. He was at Manifesto once a few years ago while I was struggling to practice goblets and not really making any progress. He graciously came over, gave me a few pointers and has since become an invaluable resource of technical knowledge. Soon after our initial meeting he also gave me one of his goblets. Every once in awhile I still manage to get over to his studio to watch him work.

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How much time is spent on each piece?

The amount of time spent on each goblet is proportional to the amount of time spent perfecting the skill required to make a goblet. The more time I spend practicing goblets the faster I can make them. So, when I say that I spend twenty minutes making each goblet, it doesn't sound like much time for a piece of glass that sells for one hundred dollars! However, I have been learning how to make goblets and practicing what I have learned since I first started blowing glass, which has been twelve years. So, I have practiced twelve years to spend twenty minutes on each goblet.

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Do you offer custom art work?

Yes we provide custom art work for various businesses and organizations. Please Contact Us for more information.

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