Husband/wife team Ralph Mossman and Mary Mullaney create their intricate “Murrini Sphere” ornaments with ornate murrini patterns embedded in blown-glass spheres. They provided us with some details about their inspiration and technique.
What is your studio like?
MM: Our current studio is a 2,000-square-foot building adjacent to our house.
RM: It looks like a house on the outside because we are in a residential neighborhood. There’s a really good view of the Grand Tetons from our shop. Mary has a room upstairs for drawing her high-end work. (She does hand-carved cameo-style vessels.) There’s also a photography room where we photograph our glass. In the hot shop, along one wall, we have cane, color samples, and color bars, so it’s really colorful.
MM: We have a large, open work space in the hot shop because the cane takes so much room. We have really big tables for working with the cane. There’s also a large office/showroom that we open up once a year to the town at Christmas.
What do you keep in your studio for inspiration?
MM: We have a lot of posters of various artists, and our bathroom has a wall with postcards of art and photos of artwork. We have a sculpture called “Bad Dog” by our friend, Ricky Bernstein. We also keep books and magazines handy for when we’re looking for ideas.
Where do you get your best ideas?
MM: A lot of inspiration for the murrinis comes from life experience. Ralph just has a really playful attitude, and he comes up with ideas. But, he also has a very technical side. Murrinis are these very intricate things, so he has to be able to visualize how they’re going to work. It’s almost mathematical.
RM: Some of it comes from looking at the world around me. A lot of things would be tough to make as murrinis, but I look at other things and say, “Hey, that would make a good murrini!”
MM: I recently bought a really thick book of photographs of butterflies of the world, and there are some really unusual combinations of color. So, if I’m lost for color combinations, I sometimes get inspiration from that, and sometimes that goes into the murrinis.
What do you do when you need inspiration?
RM: Sometimes it’s just putting things together. You make a bunch of murrinis and just start to play.
MM: I like to take on artistic projects outside my medium that take me in a new direction. For example, right now I’m working on a mosaic mirror piece with a friend who’s a mosaic artist.
Describe a breakthrough moment.
MM: There are days where you feel really connected with the glasswork. On those really “on” days, it feels like a breakthrough where your technique seems perfect.
RM: It’s not so much a technical breakthrough as a mystical moment.
What do you do when you’re not making art?
RM: It depends on the time of year. We’re pretty active in different ways. We both like to hike and ski and surf. We’re active locally too. Mary is active in local arts and I’m active in local politics.
MM: Ralph teaches yoga, and I’m part of a West African drum and dance ensemble.
What do you love about what you do?
MM: We like the lifestyle. We’re based out of our home, we make our own hours, and we’re able to live in the mountains (because when you’re a craftsperson, you can live just about anywhere you want.) We like working together, too. We get to spend a lot of time together, and not a lot of married couples have that.