Hollins Street artist works in glass


Anthony Corradetti lives in a glass house.

Number 1109 Hollins Street is the place where the potash, silica sand, soda ash, lime and barium emerge from a furnace and a kiln as works of glass art.

One day last week, the Southwest Baltimore glass blower got an invitation from the White House. One of his vases had been selected for its permanent collection as part of a celebration of American crafts.

"I got to shake the President and Mrs. Clinton's hand and have my picture taken. I was nervous thinking about it. Then I saw my peers there and I calmed down. One of my vases is now on display in the East Reception Room," he said.

The piece selected for the White House was a large black glass vessel with metallic paint in an abstract pattern. One observer thought it looked like a stormy sky at midnight. The artist disagreed politely.

"My glass does not reflect a historical form. It's very personal and painterly. There are colors that can only be achieved in the glass medium," he said.

Corradetti made the Presidential vase in the rear chamber of his studio-living quarters opposite the Hollins Market in Southwest Baltimore.

A few weeks ago he opened a gallery of art glass in the front portion of the building. His own work, as well as the works of other glass blowers, are on exhibit.

The 37-year-old son of a father who was a cabinetmaker-pattern maker, Corradetti grew up in Brookhaven, Pa., a town between Chester and Media. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He's lived in Baltimore since 1980 and seems to be known universally as Chip.

He has glass works in the Renwick Gallery of Art in Washington and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York State.

For years Corradetti supported himself in jobs other than art glass blowing. He had five years with George Goebel, Baltimore's master costumer, magician and illusionist.

"I did work for A.T. Jones on Howard Street. We designed opera costumes. I also worked in George's magic show," Corradetti said.

The artist also worked at Martick's Restaurant on Mulberry Street for about a year. "And I lasted one day at Louie's. I didn't want to be a waiter any more. I realized that I was 30 and wanted to really make something of my life and my career," he said.

Corradetti turned to glass blowing full time by renting a large warehouse space on a hill overlooking the Jones Falls in Hampden. He produced a line a glass vases and bowls he marketed under the name Vitriol.

He sold these cobalt blue, emerald green and ruby red vessels by the hundreds to craft shops and department stores.

When the rent on the 3,000-square-foot Hampden studio got well into four figures, he realized it was time to move on.

"I did well enough to make enough money to do what I really wanted to do, the larger pieces that have a smaller market and take more time," he said.

Corradetti wanted his own place to blow the glass that he then paints and fires in a kiln.

While looking around the city for a large space at a low cost, he found an abandoned city-owned comfort station on Hollins Street. It was constructed about 70 years ago to serve the Hollins Market. He also bought an old tomato packing house next door.

"I spent $15,000 to buy the building and another $30,000 to renovate it. It's not finished yet. I think it took five or six dumpsters full of old plumbing fixtures, plaster and lath wood just to clear out the place," he said.

Corradetti has produced an elegant setting for his glistening glass. The gallery has high ceilings, finely restored windows and swirling decorative iron grille work created by sculptor Wayne Koscinski.

The front door is a piece of art deco metal work from an old New York apartment house. The comfort station's earthenware tile floor remains as a reminder of its earlier function.

The walls of his new gallery are lined with Corradetti's works. "With my black pieces, the colors are reflective. They have a sensual quality. You want to touch them," he said.

He also makes clear glass pieces painted in many layers, often in a cranberry red. He may paint a fish, an apple, a house, a hand, a sphere or an image meant to suggest movement on a staircase. And at the bottom in a swirling hand is the signature "Corradetti."

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