Written by Corinne Casazza | Photos by Tim Potts
ierk Van Keppel is a master glassblower in the Italian tradition. Even after 35 years, his pieces are constantly evolving.
Dierk has been creating cable-type lighting installations for a number of years in his public commissions, notably round globes. His most well-known installation, called Compostela, hangs in the Faultless Starch building in the West Bottoms.
But Dierk wanted to repurpose his collection of 250 cast-iron molds, salvaged from defunct American glass factories. These molds range in age from modern to antique, with some dating back more than 100 years.
He couldn’t let this history vanish. “I think they have an interesting story to tell because they’re related to the American glass industry,” Dierk says. “I couldn’t stand to see what I consider really valuable treasures of American industrial tooling get tossed to metal scraps.”
As part of his work, Dierk keeps a constant vigil to see what’s popular and trending. He was struck, in particular, by the work from a Czech glassmaker called Lasvit.
“They’re combining very antique and elegant forms together,” Dierk explains. “That gave me the idea to take these various mold shapes and put several combinations together to create something different than what was originally intended.”
This is exactly what he did with the staircase lighting in a Leawood home recently completed by Schloegel Design Remodel. After combining various shapes of the molds, Dierk produced the color by blowing pure glass color into eggshell-thin glass confetti. Then the color was rolled onto the surface of the hot liquid glass from the furnace. This juxtaposition of the old (molds) and the new (staircase) is extremely striking in the ultramodern home.
It is meant to point out our small place in the universe.” ~Master Glassblower
The modern glass stairwell at the home of a Schloegel Design Remodel client glows with 54 opaque glass orbs from five vintage molds, giving them—and this renovated home—new life.
According to designer Donna Kirsopp, it took months and various design iterations to develop the finished piece.
“There were significant challenges to simply get the piece to hang: the correct length of the cables, bearing the weight on only one I-beam, and the mathematical calculations required,” she says.
But one look and you can see the end result is well worth it. “When you stand at the bottom of this three-level staircase and look up, you see an infinity of these glass-blown pieces, just an endless string of them,” Kirsopp adds.
This effect is created by Dierk’s calculated use of a stainless mirror. Placed at the top of the piece, the mirror creates the illusion of infinity—an idea that came from an old-fashioned barbershop.
“There were mirrors in front of you and a mirror behind you,” he says. “It just went back and forth into infinity.”
Looking up and gazing into infinity has a definite purpose in Dierk’s work: “It is meant to point out our small place in the universe,” he says.
It may also create a type of eternity for his own work, for his pieces to affect and delight people long after his time here is done.
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