February 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Craft Glass in San Francisco

A guest post by Webb Howell, FB&C's publisher, who is in California this week for the book fair.

With apologies to Dale Chihuly, of whom Eric Sinizer, the owner of Light Opera Gallery on Post Street in San Francisco, is no fan, the craft glass movement may have seen better days. Chihuly, says Sinizer, is bested by numerous other artists in glass who are better designers and glass blowers. They are not, says Sinizer, better marketers, which may be why the art market in craft glass still suffers from recessions in 2001 and 2008.

Blown Glass Jellyfish by Rick Satava.jpgBrown Glass Jellyfish by Rick Satava

The craft movement in glass blowing began in the late 1960s when artists took up what had been a commercial trade and brought a different perspective to it.  Sinizer became the first gallery in the early 1970s to recognize the trend and capitalize on it. Now in his 43rd year of business, the 69-year-old Sinizer is ready to perhaps give up the retail part of his business in deference to his online site at LightOperaGallery.com, one of the premier craft glass sites on the Internet.

A Frederick Carder piece from the 1930s created for Steuben Glass.jpg
A Frederick Carder piece from the 1930s, created for Steuben Glass

Sinizer's success is driven by his own passion for the art and artists of craft glass. A collector himself, Sinizer says, "I buy for myself and reorder for customers." A particular fan of what is known as the paperweight technique, where sculptural images are encased in other glass, Sinizer is also a collector of Frederick Carder, founder of Steuben Glass - pronounced by few correctly with the accent on the "ben."

Sinizer has also assembled a significant collection of books about the craft glass movement, an area of collecting easy to enter since the movement is fairly new.  Books, he says, have played a significant role in his success as a craft glass collector.

Vases using paperweight technique by Mayauel Ward.jpgVases using paperweight technique by Mayauel Ward

After a few minutes in Sinizer's gallery, it is easy to see the significance of the "collection" that he has gathered - all of which is for sale. There hundreds of items by dozens of artists, all beautiful and creative. It's a who's who of craft glass artists, but apparently not a who's who of marketers. Not a single piece is represented by Dale Chihuly.