Most glassblowers aren’t born artists,” says Caleb Siemon. “They’re born pyromaniacs.” Son of a jeweler, he grew up making things with his hands, got hooked on glass in high school, and honed his craft at the Rhode Island School of Design. He then set out for Murano, Italy, with a backpack, a few words of Italian, and the hope of an apprenticeship with renowned master glass sculptor Pino Signoretto. The maestro ignored him for a month, while Caleb attentively sketched his work and tried not to get in the way. Eventually an apprenticeship evolved.
Caleb spent two years in the Muranese studio with the glassmaker versatile enough to produce both enormous sculptures and delicate goblets. Here, he was encouraged to “steal with his eyes.” Caleb’s style shows the influence of his early tutor, coupled with an unabashed passion for the medium. “The transparency and fluidity of the material makes it unique,” he says. “I always start with an idea, but have learned to remain flexible to allow for the natural qualities of the glass”.
Caleb returned to Southern California in 1999 and constructed his own Italian-style studio. From furnace heights and bench design, to a system where each piece is created closely with a team of assistants, his methods reflect his Muranese immersion. Loris Zanon, Pino Signoretto’s master coldworker, traveled from Murano to guide the construction of Caleb’s coldshop and pass on the techniques of glass carving and polishing.
From the Scandinavian glass tradition, Caleb has developed an affection for simple forms, taking advantage of gravity and centrifugal force in design. By pairing these approaches to glassmaking, he has developed a signature aesthetic that reflects the evolved detail of the Muranese and balance and restraint of the Scandinavians. Caleb continues to invite international glass workers to his studio to share their techniques with the next generation of glass artists. His work exhibits internationally and is featured in galleries around the world.
While her husband has binged on glass with a singular focus, his wife and partner, Carmen Salazar, has sipped from many ponds. Sculptor, metalworker, architect, botanist, scavenger, and conservationist, Carmen is a curious hybrid of urban and rural. She brings the influence of many streams to her work in the glass shop. She is a recipe that calls for equal parts concrete and pasture, glass and steel and rough-hewn beams. Carmen grew up shuttling between Washington DC and the family farm in Augusta, West Virginia. In college, she began to cultivate a love for metal, glass, and the vegetal world. Carmen left the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in sculpture and art history, but also a peripatetic interest in reshaping the larger natural world.
In 1997, she drove to San Francisco where she spent two years working for a land artist, metal sculptors, horticulturalists, and glass blowers. In 1999, she moved to Orange County to help Caleb build his first shop. “I thought I was just going down for a month or so” she says, “but here we are, a decade later.” The intersection of her diverse interests led her to the Southern California Institute of Architecture in 2001.
After receiving her masters in architecture at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, Carmen worked in the high end residential realm and then on the design team for a large scale public park. With her skills in architecture, interior and landscape design, the pair have embarked on an aesthetic leap forward.
They are now executing large scale custom projects and installations while maintaining the studio’s carefully cultivated quality and visual signature. “I have a somewhat less controlled aesthetic than Caleb. Maybe it comes from working with so many plants.” says Carmen, “I love to scavenge pieces from the studio, tests and such, and re-purpose them. Caleb always looks like he has a tinge of fear when I start experimenting in the studio, like, ‘gosh, I hope she doesn’t blow us up today.’”