What is the first word that comes in your mind when you see one of Robert Mickelsen's flameworked glass work?

Wow! Right?

Robert Mickelsen is one of the world's most renowned glass artists. His glass sculptures are just perfectly amazing.

Robert was born in 1951 in Fort Belvoir, Virginia and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Soon after, Robert started his formal education, he left college and started working with a professional lampworker in the mid-seventies. He worked with him for two years and then left the job and started selling his own designs at outdoor craft fairs. He did that for ten years, travelling place to place selling his work.

It was in 1987, when Robert took a class from Paul J. Stankard (the father of modern glass paperweights) that he realized the possibilities of his medium. He soon stopped doing the craft shows and started marketing his work exclusively through galleries. After this there was no stopping, Robert's career just took off and he became a household name.

Robert's flameworked glass expresses his unique vision in the most purest and honest possible way. According to his artist statement on his website, "The objects I create are narratives… personal vignettes that reveal the secrets of my innermost thoughts. These are often mysteries even to me until the creative process reveals them and so the work becomes a form of self-discovery. The work provides me with a path to understanding things that I otherwise would not be aware of and sharing them with others who can then identify those things within themselves."


Robert's work has been exhibited in some of the most prominent galleries in the country and he regularly participates in exhibitions. Robert has taught at some major glass schools like The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass and The Eugene Glass School. He has also published numerous technical and historical articles on flameworked glass and was on the board of directors of the Glass Art Society and was their treasurer and vice-president, for six years. Read on to know more about Robert and his work, in our exclusive interview with him.

1. Hello Robert, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us something about your work.

My name is Robert Mickelsen. I have been a flameworker since 1974. You do the math. My work is mainly one-of-a-kind sculptures and sculptural vessels.

2. What led you to take up glass sculpting as your medium of expression and as a profession? Have you ever dabbled in any other artforms?  

I have never really done any other kind of artwork besides glass. I stumbled into glass quite by accident and stuck with it because it suited me so well.

Thomson's Sub-Machine Gun

3. You have such a wide repertoire of glass sculptures. How do you go about selecting the subject that you are going to create? Tell us a bit about your thought process.

I am a rather spontaneous artist. I tend to start with a "seed" idea and then expand it as I work. I believe that the really valuable creative stuff happens when I am immersed in the process so I deliberately leave room and look for opportunities for new ideas while I work. This is what I mean in my artist statement by "cultivating surprises". If I am surprised by the result of a project, then I feel I have achieved the best possible creative result.

4. Our readers would love to know about the techniques that are used to create glass sculptures in general and specifically by you. Could you please elaborate on these techniques and also about the types of glass?  

I work mainly with borosilicate glass rods and tubing. I use clear and colored glass. I like to modify the surface of glass by sandblasting, painting, powdering, and specialize in a technique called "graal".

Goblets at Habatat

Sweetgum Leaf and Pod
5. What other artist’s works do you look up to? If you could do a collaborative project with other artists, who would it be with?  

I really admire the work of people like Nick Cave (sound suits), Sergei Isopov (porcelain), Judith Schaectner (flat glass), and Andy Goldsworthy (nature). But to really collaborate I stick with other glass artists. I have done successful collabs with Salt, Snic, Banjo, Marcel, Pakoh, Ubatuba, and Eusheen. I am planning collabs with Buck, JAG, and Micah Evans this year. All of these people are lampworkers.

6. It must be very physically demanding and extremely tiring to blow the glass into such intricate structures, not to mention the hot environment that you work in. How do you manage to keep yourself fit to do so?  

Surprisingly, there are those who would not consider me to be "fit". But I am conditioned after working for more than 38 years to be pretty much impervious to the climate here in Florida. I drink lots of water and have a swimming pool just outside my studio. I am 61 and am able to work pretty much as I did when I was much younger. I hope this will continue for some time to come.

Victoria's Victrola

7. What avenues do you use to promote your work?  What’s your take on word-of-mouth promotion? Share with us the best compliment that you have received for your work.  

I sell mostly through galleries although social media is something I am now learning about. Word of mouth is limited without social media to enhance it. Best compliment: "I am going to steal that!"

8. Tell us about your book “Dreams and Secrets”. What prompted you to come up with it?  

I wanted to create an easily-accessible catalog of recent work. I need to update that book this year.

Dreams And Secrets by Robert Mickelsen

9. What are your future plans as an artist? Any favorite project that you would like to work on?  

I just want to keep working as I have been. I feel my career is at a perfect place right now and only hope it will continue for another ten years or so like this.

10. What would be your most valuable advice to budding artists?

Be true to yourself and your own vision.

Thank you Robert for taking out the time and doing this interview with us. We'd like to wish you  the very best for the future.

To read more of such inspiring interviews, you can follow us on Twitter.

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1 Response to 'Artist Of The Week: Robert Mickelsen - Mindblowing Flameworked Glass Artist '

  1. Sreekanth Said,
    http://www.e-junkie.info/2012/12/artist-of-week-robert-mickelsen.html?showComment=1356082142157#c2257978456950999412'> December 21, 2012 at 2:29 AM

    Absolutely stunning and adorable artwork!


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