About Tom Rupnicki

Tom Rupnicki

I make art because I have to.

My best expression is through clay and glass, and I started on this path 36 years ago thorough a very fortunate circumstance when I met my friend and great artist, Ben Mahmound. Ben encouraged me to leave my career as a computer programmer and entrepreneur and go to art school. I listened, and I haven’t looked back.

My career as an artist has taken two equally important paths: clay and glassblowing, with each medium presenting a different challenge and producing a different result. Clay is very immediate and tactile, while glass is a liquid mystery with color and fire. Working with hot glass is a very intense direct experience that can only be done with the help of assistants, while working with clay becomes a meditation and is a solitary process.

Color generates a response in a viewer. The right combination and placement of colors can suddenly expand vision creating an emotional experience—the kind of response one experiences when viewing Monet’s “Water Lilies.”

I love the beautiful qualities of glass that illuminate colors.  My glasswork plays with colors in many combinations and manners. I like working big and have made various glass vessels up to five feet high using several different techniques to incorporate color. One was to make patterns with multi-colored pulled cane. Another was to stack solid rings of glass color, drill a hole in the center and put the stack of color bars into an oven. The color is then heated to 1,000 degrees and picked up on the end of a blow pipe. The hole in the center allows a bubble to be started through six to seven pieces of color. Then multiple gathers of clear glass are taken and the glass is blown out to create a unique form. The results were unpredictable because of the different melting points of the colors.

One of my art heroes is Mark Rothko, master of color field paintings. His colors create a world of total beauty that resonate off one another. I have learned to visualize colors in a meditation practice, and that colors have healing qualities.

I developed a line of hand-blown glass landscape illuminators, NightOrbs™, that evoke through color and light the subtle qualities that inspire the human spirit. My vision in creating NightOrbs was to marry the healing effects of light and color with nature into a lasting, original piece of landscape art that can be enjoyed in gardens. NightOrbs are an ethereal presence in a garden, an object of beauty, and an opportunity for meditation.

With the discovery of clay, I began my life long journey of making vessels and sculpture. I start with a clay footprint, which dictates how the forms evolve. The working process of building using coils is time consuming because of the pinching process of turning a coil into part of the form. This process can only be done by compressing the clay with the thumb and forefinger to form the wall. This process may take up to six months to complete a more complex form. When working on a piece that long it literally becomes a meditation and very grounding experience, building the form and allowing the clay to create the sculpture. As my mentor Paulus Behrenson said, “Let the clay be what it wants to be.” I love this way of working in the solitude.

Since my introduction to Buddhist influence and thought, I practice different forms of meditation. During the making process I start with an empty mind without mental chatter and can let go of ego. Starting from an empty space allows my creativity to blossom. My hands are the tools that express that. Sometimes I start with a vision or idea and watch it happen.

Recently I have been working with special paper clay using clay coils to build large clay sculpture. The works are large free-form sensual shapes.

Without art there would be no humanity; art is necessary for our survival as a species. It gives us joy and understanding of something greater than ourselves.