When we first saw “Starry Night” by Adam Parsley, we couldn’t help but ask, “how did he do that?” Like a ship in a bottle, this delicate paper crane inside of a blown glass sphere seems impossible—we are awestruck as we try to imagine how it is created. It was because of this wondrous, enigmatic quality that we chose it for our 2018 Ornament of the Year.
This enchanting ornament came to life thanks to the great imagination and technical skill of glass artist Adam Parsley. He has developed a meticulous process to enclose each origami paper crane in molten glass without burning it. We wanted to find out more about the artist’s inspiration for this stunning piece, and though he wouldn’t reveal his secrets, he did tell us more about his work and his journey as an artist.
Adam first became interested in glass at the age of fifteen when he discovered the National Bottle Museum, a non-profit museum and studio in upstate New York. He was excited to find that the museum hosted glass classes for kids. His dad, always supportive of his passions, drove him there twice a week for lessons.
Under the tutelage of owners Jan and Larry Rutland, Adam got his first taste of the thrill of shaping glass with flame, first making soda-lime beads and then borosilicate pendants. He later studied with master glass artists Sally Prasch, Mike Plane, Christopher Rice, and Suellen Fowler, experiences that helped him develop and refine his techniques.
In his work, Parsley is interested in “anything that grabs me and sparks my passion enough to dive into the rabbit hole of excitement and design.” He loves to explore the beauty of simple forms and discover the complexities beneath their surfaces.
He is also interested in creating work that inspires a sense of wonder. He explains that, “when someone is confused and entertained by a piece, I can see in their eyes the very same feeling of awe and mystery that drew me to making glass twenty years ago.”
His “Starry Night” ornament evolved from one of his personal projects. Every year, Adam makes all the presents he gives to his family for the holidays, and each year, he aims to outdo what he did the year before.
One year, he created portraits. They were such a big hit that he was at a loss as to what to do the next year. Eventually, an idea came to him: Senbazuru, a Japanese tradition of making one thousand origami cranes. So he cut squares and folded birds, and then handed them out to all his loved ones. It was an incredible experience, and he tells us that “the energy cultivated through [the] process was so powerful.”
Of course, the year after that was an even greater challenge. How could he possibly top the paper cranes? And then an idea came to him: paper cranes in glass.
The idea was crystal clear in his mind. There were plenty of technical hurdles, but he was determined to make it work. Several days and multiple prototypes later, he had it figured out. When he unveiled the gifts for his family, the response was overwhelming. “To say they were well-received might be a bit of an understatement,” he explains. “They were a hit!”
With such a response, he realized that these ornaments might have a broader audience than just his family. He spent the next few years honing his process and refining the form until he was finally satisfied. The result is the remarkable “Starry Night” ornament available today—one we are honored to call our 2018 Ornament of the Year. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Adam Parsley and offer his stunning work as part of this year’s ornament collection!