WEB EXCLUSIVE: Artist is a hit with “Bling Rings” and psychedelic brains

Erica Crist

Boiling glass makes psychedelic swirls

Orfeo Quagliata, an artist specializing in glass jewelry and decor, brought his Phuze collection for sale and display to Cleveland for the first time in August.

Isola Bella, a boutique and café in the atrium area of Stark Enterprises’ Eton Chagrin Boulevard, showcased his collection of approximately 2,000 one-of-a-kind glass pieces.

The Phuze collection features everything from brightly colored jewelry, tiles and vases, to sushi dishes with chopsticks.

“I met Quagliata in New York at a trade show, and I instantly fell in love with him and his jewelry,” said Lynne Gaines, the buyer and retail manager at Isola Bella. “I have never been into glass because I didn’t know much about it, but the more I see, the more I love it because it’s so functional.”

Soon after, Gaines flew Quagliata to Cleveland for a display. The Mexico City resident said it was his first time to the Midwest, and his stay in Cleveland was going great.

Karen Johnson, who works in the area and purchased some of Quagliata’s pieces, said “the movement of the glass” was her favorite characteristic.

“I love the rings,” she said. “They’re so beautiful; it looks almost edible.”

Quagliata said that the “bling ring” is his best-selling piece. It has been featured in many magazines, including Oprah, Surface and Zink.

“It’s been published a lot because it’s the coolest, and then it’s been bought a lot because it’s been published a lot,” he said.

Although the “bling rings” are his best-selling pieces, Quagliata said that his personal favorite is the tile wall piece “Jimi’s Brains.”

“I just love it,” he said. “It’s my newest piece, and cutting edge in the glass community.”

Quagliata discussed the technique he invented to produce “Jimi’s Brains” during a cocktail reception and slide show on the August 18. He later summarized it, saying it consists of many different colored glasses being boiled together, cooled and polished.

“I named it ‘Jimi’s Brains’ because it looks like what the coroner must have seen doing the autopsy on Jimi Hendrix — psychedelic brains,” Quagliata said.

Quagliata began studying glass under his father, Narcissus Quagliata, at age 8. He moved to Spain to apprentice with Josef Fernandez-Castrillo, at age 17.

“At first I didn’t want to do glass because there is so much crap out there,” Quagliata said. “But I felt that I could give something new to the industry, and I decided to come out as more of a glass inventor.”

After years of studying, he moved to San Francisco and graduated from The California College of Arts and Crafts with a combined major of industrial and furniture design.

After graduating, he embarked on a four-year project with his father, which was the longest time he had ever put into one piece, Quagliata said. Together they designed and created the dome for Michelangelo’s last architectural work, and Santa Maria Degli Angeli, National Church of Italy.

Quagliata is now the general director of Phuze in Mexico City. He said his future plans are to keep doing the jewelry and tabletops, but also a new focus on architectural installations and artwork.

Of all the pieces that Quagliata brought with him to Cleveland, Gaines said that he would leave a small collection of about one case at Isola Bella.

For more information about the Phuze collection, visit www.phuzedesign.com.

Contact ALL correspondent Erica Crist at [email protected].