Glass Slide Chandelier, 2005

Alison Berger Glassworks

Location: West Hollywood, California
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Her medium is light, her material is glass: that is how glass designer Alison Berger describes her craft. Introduced to glass blowing as a curious teenager in Dallas, Texas, Berger took a circuitous route to her chosen profession. She received a fine-arts degree at the Rhode Island School of Design, attended architecture school at Columbia University, then worked with a number of architects, including Frank O. Gehry and Associates, until 1995, when she began to devote herself full-time to glass design.

Berger’s glassworks are like centerpieces in a room devoid of decoration, except for the light that the pieces attract and ultimately refract. Glass Slide Chandelier resists being categorized as decorative. The turn-of-the-twentieth-century glass slides that comprise the chandelier depict portraits as well as industrial, agricultural, and architectural scenes—a light box which lures us with imagery from the past while providing a timeless and contemporary structure.

Berger’s inspirations for both her lighting and glass vessels range from bell jars and apothecary shapes to scientific beakers and glass jars in which she used to capture fireflies as a child. A kindred spirit of Bauhaus designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld, she finds beauty in the bulb and in the subtlety of light, as exemplified by her hand-blown crystal pendants, in which bulb, shade, and light appear as one.

Berger is guided by memory—not only of personal experience but also of centuries-old glassblowing techniques that are now virtually extinct. Bubbles and other imperfections intrinsic to glass are neither romanticized nor hidden in Berger’s works, but rather honestly reflect the nature of the material.

About forty percent of Berger’s work is on commission, some of it from actors who have seen her work on stage sets for films and music videos like Practical Magic (1998, Warner Brothers), Tank Girl (1995, MGM), and Madonna’s Bedtime Stories (1995). Her passionate, almost spiritual attachment to her medium has earned her an enthusiastic following. For those who own one of her works, Berger’s message is clear: “The pieces are at home waiting for you; they act as a quiet beacon.”