From Venice with Love - Page 3

San Francisco glass artist David Patchen practices ‘old country’ technique with modern flair
From Venice with Love
Patchen with assistant Ian Whitt in the studio.

"You have to be able to read the temperature, not only how it's hot but where it's hot," Patchen explains, noting that the glass has constantly changing heat at different levels internally than externally.

"Its properties change from second to second. That's what makes it so maddening when you [first] start working with glass," he recalls. "It's a really quirky material. To be able to understand it is really a lifelong process."

Gallery owner Sonya Pfeiffer says just showing people Patchen's book that illustrates his process, "clients and customers are just blown away."

"Everybody's mouth is agape by the time we finish," she laughed. "I've had people say, 'I totally understand now why this is so valuable.'"

After watching Patchen's demonstrations at Elder Gallery in 2018 and '19, she adds, "People understand all the thought and time that goes into it."

  From Venice with Love
Threee examples from Patchen's elegant 'Parabola' series—"an exploration of spheres and variations that elongate or compress the form."

"I appreciate the people who make these things because I know how difficult it is," says Keck, a retired research chemist who numbers eight Patchen pieces among his collection of ancient Chinese vases and 60-plus works of art glass. "I think it's just amazing. There's hardly any bubbles in his glass. That in itself is hard to do."

The North Carolinian said he first saw the artist's work online at, and then he purchased the glass over a period of several years.

"I looked at his pieces there and I said, 'Wow, these are unbelievable,'… because I'd never seen that before," he recalls of Patchen's murrine. "It's more intricate and more detailed than the other glass I have."

"I think that's what most impresses people: he's so meticulous," agreed Pfeiffer.

  From Venice with Love
From Patchen's 'Bloom' series, which he says is influenced equally by assorted life forms as well as by a geode he has owned since childhood.

The artist evolves

Actually, Patchen's most recent pieces are even more exacting. When Dani Montague first noticed his glasswork a few years back, she made a mental note to keep an eye on his career.

"He definitely got my attention as an emerging artist," says the gallery owner, adding, "I've definitely watched him grow and emerge over the years."

"The first pieces I got, they're cool but not as intricate," says Keck, noting that his Patchen pieces tell a story: "It's like an evolution of his glass."

The artist has been somewhat strategic in managing that evolution though. He has been exploring eight different forms, and is reluctant to expand that number as he continues to find other possibilities to explore within those eight.

"I kind of want to establish each form thoroughly. I tend to keep [it] pretty simple with forms," says Patchen, whose weekly work routines also help regulate the development of his art. Some of it is spent in more mundane tasks of packing and shipping to customers. Some is spent exploring patterns with the glass tiles.

"I might have a pattern sitting around for a couple of days while I kind of ponder what I want to turn it into," he admits, noting that the hot work he does in his rented studio space at Public Glass is so physically taxing, he limits it to Tuesdays and Fridays.

  From Venice with Love
The 'Dewdrop' design.

"There's no creativity in the hot shop; you just try to execute what it is you want to make," says Patchen. Occasionally, he travels for his work—for demonstrations or, less often, for an installation like he did on cruise ships in Germany last fall for a series he calls 'Dewdrops.'

"That series is really amazing," Pfeiffer remarks, seeing the influence of modernism on 'Dewdrops.' With regard to mid-century modern, she added, "That is an era that speaks to me, so maybe that's why that piece particularly speaks to me."

"The forms are modernist in that they're clean lines, simple forms," agrees the artist. "They're not cluttered, they're minimalist."

Another series with modern influence that Montague especially likes is called 'Bloom,' which Patchen says is influenced equally by assorted life forms as well as by a geode he has owned since childhood.

"A lot of his work is organic in its design, where you see dynamic, flowing curves," says the San Francisco woman. Regarding 'Bloom,' she says, "It was very innovative with that design, the way David has the pattern and the colors [concealed] from inside out. It's very distinctive to him."