Glass Universe of the Author under the Name of Elf.
Currently, pieces of art of Elf, a glass artist, are known far beyond the Baltics. The artist’s works adorn houses of European nobility, forks of Arab sheikhs and even seven-star hotel Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Several masterpieces, made by order of Gazprom Company, were presented as a gift to President of Russia V. Putin.
Elf’s works are unique both in form and in technique. Art critics get lost in guesswork whether they are the author’s spirit or cosmic worlds sheathed in a glass shell. The artist himself, when asked how an idea of a work is being born, answers, “I sit down in a quiet place and begin to turn over, like pages, last impressions. At first an emotion comes, then – a colour. And, at last, there appears an image. I just have to figure out how to incarnate a vision in the glass”.
Elf makes his masterpieces exclusively by hand. Techniques of manual glass processing have not changed much over several centuries. However, the author has a lot of own unique methods and techniques in his arsenal. Alloy of glass and metal. Work with multilayer alloys and sponging of glass. Adding of rare earth metals and even organic matters into liquid melt. The finest net of air bubbles – the master’s hallmark – is also made by hand without any laser technology and remains a mystery even for Italian glassblowers from Murano Island. A constant temperature of over 1,600 degrees should be maintained in furnaces. Once the process is stopped at least for a minute, the precious raw material, high-quality crystal, will be irretrievably damaged. Each piece of art requires the master to be concentrated and fully aloof from the outer world. One inaccurate gesture and a work piece flies into a bucket. It takes almost three days to create even a simple sculpture! And in summer they have to stop work in the studio due to high temperature, when even the most powerful air conditioners can’t help.
Everything began 20 years ago, when a young graduate of the Latvian Academy of Art decided to set up his own studio. In order to buy the first, simplest equipment, he had to pledge available property, take a loan at the bank and even seek help from relatives. The first workshop was opened in the dilapidated premises of the city bath house. “During three years I was wearing one pair of jeans and driving a car, which should have been thrown on the wrecking yard long time ago. In winter we warmed ourselves near smelting furnaces and, as best we could, fought with terrible draughts. In summer the temperature in the workshop went up to +55 degrees. In those damn conditions, people had to work and, at the same time, see to it that nobody fainted,” Elf says.
Success didn’t come at once. All the time they had to look for a way of creative styles, methods and techniques. “Step by step. Until I sensed that glass became obedient to me. As if I began to hear it. Glass itself gave me a clue what techniques to use and where to proceed,” Elf says.
Orders have to be scheduled for months ahead. But, according to the author, he is not going to expand production. “I would like that all my craftwork remain piece-goods. A conveyor makes it possible to gain maximal profits, but it kills creativity and individuality,” the master says.