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An Artist with an Oven

John Pomp uses the same skills to cook as he does to blow glass for his gorgeous bowls and vases. He shows off all of his talents at dinner parties in his Brooklyn studio.

It's 105 degrees in glass artist John Pomp's cavernous Brooklyn, New York, studio. The heat radiates from two 3,500-degree furnaces and one 1,000-degree oven burning full blast, but the substance Pomp is melting isn't glass—it's cheese.

Although Pomp is busy working on accessories for New York restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Centro Vinoteca, the 33-year-old artist still finds time every few weeks to make crispy, thin-crusted Caprese pizzas in his glass oven for colleagues and friends. "Glassmaking and cooking go together because in both there is so much open flame around," he says.

When Pomp finishes making pizzas at his parties, he and his studio partners continue to blow glass into the night, giving friends the chance to watch the artists use metal rods to scoop up molten glass and then roll and blow the honeylike substance. For Pomp, "cooking glass," as he likes to call glassblowing, is similar to cooking food: "There are no recipes in making glass—you're interacting with a live material that keeps changing, and you have to react immediately. My approach to food is the same: I don't need recipes or measuring cups—I know a lot about heat transfer, and I'm really good with proportions and timing."

Pomp has been honing both his glassmaking and cooking skills since his days as a student at the Tyler School of Art at Philadelphia's Temple University. "The first day of glass class, I fell in love," he recalls. "From that point on I was obsessed. If I wasn't blowing glass, I was watching other people do it; if I wasn't watching it, I was reading about it." He and his classmates would try to find ways to eat meals without leaving the glass workshop. At breakfast, for instance, Pomp would brew espresso over a "hot spot" made by laying puddles of molten glass on a stainless steel table.

Shortly after graduation in 1997, Pomp joined the faculty at Tyler. While there, he produced his first line, the Shui collection for the New York City design shop Aero. The raindrop-shaped opalescent vases were inspired by Veronese vases, a pedestaled style named for the 16th-century painter Paolo Veronese, who often showed them in his works. Pomp's new line of vases combines midcentury Swedish tulip forms with classic Muranese striping. The amber, conical pendant lights he created for Centro Vinoteca have a subtle raised-diamond pattern, while his votives for Eleven Madison Park have a Slinky-like coiled construction.

Lately, Pomp has become more interested in wine, but he has been dissatisfied with most wineglass designs. "I don't like that people have fine glasses and don't want to use them," he says. "Stemmed styles are nice and elegant, but those are not the ones you reach for every day. I reach for glasses that feel comfortable—ones that are clear and simple." After months of making samples for him­self, Pomp created the "Soft Rock" decanter and wineglasses. Although the clear, stemless design is relatively clean-lined, the forms are irregular and organic, creating a style that is both easy to hold and dramatic. Pomp sells his tabletop designs as well as one-of-a-kind fine-art pieces at his eponymous store, which he opened this spring in the front of his glassblowing studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He recently introduced a line of minimalist glass dog bowls inspired by his English Staffordshire bull terrier, Buckley. The puppy is named after architect Buckminster Fuller, whose famous dogma, "to do more with less," seems an appropriate way to describe Pomp's understated style.

Whether he's rolling and shaping a 3,500-degree ball of molten glass while chatting with friends or shifting around a pizza to find the perfect spot in the oven, Pomp moves carefully while still seeming totally relaxed. But this outward calm doesn't mean the work is not exciting for him. Pomp says he loves the risk and performance aspect of it all and spends his free time looking for the same rush. "Whether it's glassblowing, motorcycling or skateboarding, I love the ride," he says. "It's exhilarating and dangerous and beautiful."

John Pomp Glass, 160 Berry St., Brooklyn, NY; 718-486-9620 or johnpomp.com.

Published October 2007
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