A good friend first introduced Chris Ahalt to the world of glassblowing in 1998, an introduction Ahalt isn’t sure whether to thank or smack his friend for. Glassblowing can be a frustrating medium with countless hours lost to broken glass, and one could say that you have to be a bit of a masochist to be in the profession. However, there’s something addictive about it, because even after years of sweat and exasperation, Ahalt still goes back for more each day getting lost in the creative process, striving for that next great piece. The thrill never gets old of thwarting the glass’ desire to fall apart and it’s always a victory when a piece comes together. Glass is very much like walking a tightrope - there’s a rush of gratification you get once reaching the other side because you know from experience how easy it is to fall.
Luck was on Ahalt’s side when he was able to go to Venice, Italy in 2004 and apprentice under the renowned master flame worker, Cesare Toffolo. He went from tinkering in a garage not knowing exactly what he was doing, to learning old world techniques from a master. Italians are a bit of show-offs, a trait definitely shared by Ahalt, so he took to his Venetian apprenticeship like a fish to water and learned as much as he could about the centuries-old techniques that create the rich and complex style that make Venetian glass what it is. Working in Italy had a huge impact on Ahalt’s work as he began to strive to match the perfection of form and thinness of glass that the Venetians achieve with such apparent ease.
Recently, Ahalt has delved into more sculptural uses of glass and has created a series of animal balloons. His iconic animals are sculpted with subtle yet intricate details and are strung up on hand-forged copper wire to emulate balloons. This work is not only about the wonder inducing, playful illusion of glass floating, but also touches on some social commentary regarding the state of our favorite endangered animals. Ahalt is currently also working on marrying the two disciplines of functional and sculptural glass works.
A graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture/ Furniture Design, Ahalt currently lives in Minneapolis where he is a self-employed flame worker specializing in custom glassware, vases, sculpture, lighting, prototyping, and commissioned work. Ahalt has taught numerous glass-blowing workshops nationally and his work was highlighted in the 2011 March/April issue of American Craft Magazine.