These glass balloons are both fun, and unusual. Meticulously sculpted, they have intricate, yet subtle detail. The candy colored glass is rendered soft with a frosty finish. They give the illusion of floating, and while balancing on their copper ribbons they literally sway back and forth tickling ones curiosity. They invoke a reminiscence of the joy and wonder of childhood imagination.
There is however a darker, if less obvious side to the work. Each of these iconic animals depicted are sadly on the endangered species list. Like the glass balloons themselves, the future of these species is perilously fragile. Much like the bind that ties them to their weights, they can’t escape the reality that their lives outside of zoos and preserves is vanishing. All that will soon be left is a cute balloon to purchase as a memento for our children.
About Chris Ahalt
Chris Ahalt was first introduced to flameworking by a good friend, Bob Heise, in 1998, a well known flameworker. Back then there were not many people in Minneapolis doing the craft, so it was a a rare opportunity that to this day Ahalt is very grateful for being given.
In 2001, Ahalt took a class with well known Italian flameworker, Emilio Santini. It was at that class that he fell in love with the style and structure of Venetian glassblowing. A few years later Ahalt took a class with master flameworker, Cesare Toffolo, who was the teacher of Santini. He was blown away by his abilities and techniques in glass sculptural work (not that Santini wasn’t amazing himself).
In 2005 Ahalt was fortunate enough to go and apprentice under Toffolo for one month in Murano, Italy. He learned how centuries-old techniques and knowledge have culminated to create the rich and complex style that makes Venetian glass what it is.
Since being in Murano, Italy, he’s taken a class here and there, most notably with Alex Arbel from Israel who opened his eyes to some beautiful surface treatments. But through everything he has seen in the glass world he keep’s coming back to what he learned from Toffolo in Italy. Ahalt strives for the perfection of form, the cleanliness, and the deliberateness of the Venetian style. Though his work has definitely changed through the years as he’s played with tweaking the traditional forms, Ahalt still feels as though his vessel work carries a heavy dose of Venetian sensibilities visually and structurally.
Recently he has delved into more sculptural work. His animal balloons, which were initially children’s gifts, have blossomed into much more than that. Ahalt sculpts intricate, yet subtle detail into the animals that creates an expressiveness that you can’t help but connect with. He considers them homages to the animals he sculpts because sadly most, if not all, are on the endangered species list and may one day only be seen in zoos if not lost completely.
To connect with Chris visit him on Facebook