2010-09-30 / News

Islander turns colorful glass into brilliant works of art

By Cindy Cingone

Paul Housberg in his Jamestown studio. Photo by Cindy Cingone Paul Housberg in his Jamestown studio. Photo by Cindy Cingone Some people look at a wall and see a barrier. Others, like island glass artist Paul Housberg, see a potential work of art.

Housberg has achieved architectural artistic acclaim for his process of creating walls of artwork from tempered glass tile. His walls can hold between twoand a-half tons of glass to more than 10 tons of glass.

One of his earlier creations, back in 1993, was the dining hall of the world’s largest researchbased pharmaceutical company, Pfizer Inc.

Housberg created four distinct walls of art glass, each measuring 12 feet high by 11 feet wide. He called the work “Four Seasons,” and as the sun would circle the round dining hall, each season of the year would be highlighted through carefully placed reflective glass walls depicting summer, spring, autumn and winter.

Born in New York City and raised on Long Island, Housberg came to Rhode Island to attend and later graduate from R.I. School Of Design. He received both a Bachelor’s degree and MFA from the school, and set up his first art glass studio in Providence.

Housberg came to Jamestown after marrying his wife, Sheila Haggerty, and hearing a mutual friend of theirs boast: “You gotta check out Jamestown.”

A fantasy of the Housbergs was to find enough land to build both their home and studio, with enough property to support a growing family.

“We got lucky,” he said. “Jamestown turned out to be the perfect location for my wife, son, daughter and my glass art studio.”

Housberg’s home and studio were designed by architect Chris Ladds. The studio is ample enough to hold a large array of glass sheets and tiles, two handbuilt kilns that can reach up to 1,480 degrees, layout tables, computers and diamond table saws.

The Jamestown studio gives him the serenity and peacefulness he needs to create his unique works of art, Housberg said.

“In all of my work, I try to give a hand-made quality,” he said. “A human gesture. People, especially in a public setting, respond to color and texture.”

It starts with the glass sheets he uses for his designs. The sheets come exclusively from a company located in Portland, Ore.

“Their glass comes in a great range of colors, production is always constant and they offer me competent support,” he said.

Housberg’s signature sawtooth look has evolved over the years.

Individual tiles are molded to tempered glass and undergo two to three firings. One of the best examples of his unique art glass technique can be seen in the cornerstone piece he created for the headquarters lobby of CalStars in West Sacramento, Calif., he said.

Working with Derix Glass, located in a small town outside of Wiesbaden, Germany, Housberg collaborated with artisans and craftspeople to erect a “box of water” made entirely of hand-blown glass tiles. The artwork replicates a rectangular core sample of water, as if it were taken directly out of a pond or a river.

More than 2,000 pieces of tile – all numbered, and lighter at the top, deeper and murkier at the bottom – convince the viewer they are passing through a body of water as they walk past.

Housberg’s works can take several years to complete, from the first phone call to the final check. The work is a collaboration between the client, the artist and the inspiration of the architects. All bring ideas to the table, he said.

Housberg’s work can be seen in many commercial ventures, such as the Aria Spa in Las Vegas, and the lobbies at the Richmond Marriott Hotel in Virginia and the Peninsula Chicago. Corporate works can be seen at the Boston offices of Ernst and Young, and in the lobby at Silver Towers in New York City.

Housberg has also erected walls of glass art at the Children’s Specialized Hospital Meditation room in New Brunswick, N.J., and at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Conn.

But Housberg hasn’t neglected his home state. His work can also be found at T.F. Green Airport, at the G Tech Center in Providence, as well as at Bank RI and the R.I. Public Transit Authority.

Housberg works regular weekday hours so that he can spend time with his family. He tries not to work on weekends.

His son and daughter, ages 12 and 13, love to sail, ski and play soccer. The family’s favorite activity in Jamestown is going out to eat at Slice of Heaven.

Housberg’s studio is not open to the general public. One of the things he loves most about Jamestown is the community’s respect for his privacy.

“It is heaven living here,” he said.

Visit www.glassproject.com to learn more about Housberg and his work.

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