What brought you to Laguna Beach and when was it?
In 1976, I had a glass studio in Santa Monica. I had been blowing glass for six years and was starting to see some success. My mother moved to Laguna Beach, where I would visit her often. The main attraction to me was not only the beauty of the coastline but the community of artists and the summer venues and art shows that ran all summer. In 1977, I moved to Laguna and built my glass blowing studio in Laguna Canyon. My first Sawdust Art Festival and Festival of Arts was that year.
Describe your art.
Glass blowing dates back to the Iron Age in 1500 BC. Its long history has always fascinated me. Much of the work has survived for 3000 years and is just as beautiful today as the day it was made. I apprenticed in Bavaria Germany under glass artist Erwin Eisch. This allowed me time to develop my skill without the enormous expense of maintaining a studio. In Europe, there is a 20-year apprenticeship necessary to perhaps reach master status. There are no short cuts.This is now my 45th year blowing glass, and I am creating the works I’ve always dreamed of.
What inspires you?
In the beginning of my career, I found a collector base that collected the Art Noveau glass of Tiffany and Steuben. I spent 20 years after moving to Laguna Beach developing my skill in designing and creating the luster glass and highly decorated pieces popular during the turn of the century. I started to become inspired by sea form creatures and local landscapes.
Where did you study glassblowing?
In 1970, there was little opportunity to learn glassblowing in the U.S. When I was 19 years old, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I decided to travel to Europe and visit my older sister who lived in Munich, Germany. Her German husband was raised in a Bavarian Village near the Czech border. The area had been blowing glass for 1200 years. We visited my brother-in-law’s family home in the small village of Fraunau. The village had three glass factories, one of which was owned by a family friend. I toured the factory and saw glass blowing for the first time. I remember the moment I said I could do this. What a challenge! I asked Erwin Eisch, the owner, glass designer and artist, if there would be any way I could stay and learn. He gave me my first workbench. I spent two years there learning the trade and honing my skills. While there, I met the fathers of the studio glass movement, Dale Chihuly and Harvey Littleton. I returned to the U.S. in 1973 and started blowing glass at UCLA in their newly-opened glass studio. I stayed for one semester and decided that I knew more about glass then they did and really needed my own studio. I built my first studio in Santa Monica with three other glassblowers to share the expense.
Where can people view your work?
I have five public art locations here in Laguna Beach. The most popular are the two locations at the Montage Resort. There is a 27-foot mural in cast glass called“Eternal Sunset” and two bronze and glass lanterns at the entrance of Montage. My home studio and showroom in Laguna Beach is really the place to view my work and see a glassblowing demonstration. During July and August, I am demonstrating and exhibiting at the Sawdust Art Festival, Booth 100. Most recently, I’ve been accepting commissions for chandeliers. At the Laguna Sawdust Art Festival, I featured a 6-foot jellyfish chandelier.
What is the most exciting commission you’ve received?
Probably the most exciting thing that happened in my career was the invitation to submit a design concept for the Montage entry. It was my first public art location and resulted in a $125,000 commission.
John Barber Glass Designs
21062 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach 92651/949.494.1464