The furnace roars in Jacobson Glass Studio. Molten glass glides through the air and spins at the end of a metal rod. The smoke of burning wood and newspaper drifts lazily in rafters above two men working.
I had the pleasure of popping into David Jacobson’s studio in Montville, Maine yesterday. His intricate designs caught my eye during my initial Made in Maine online research, and he was one of the first artists to confirm an interview and shoot with me. (After a long, well deserved vacation; hence this being my fourth post.)
David greeted me at the door with a big smile and a handshake, informing me that his fellow glassblower friend, Ben Coombs, would be helping him with a large commissioned piece that “may or may not go wrong” as they made it. I immediately loved his honesty and inexplicable glee at the prospect of things going badly. But for David, glass is an adventure. A passion. If things went wrong then that just meant the joy of figuring it out. (Spoiler: things went perfectly.)
David first witnessed glassblowing during his freshman year of college. Strolling along through campus on a spring day, he noticed that the school had moved their glassblowing studio outside. To say he fell in love at first sight would be putting it mildly.
“It just caught my eye and I said, ‘I have to learn how to do this,'” he told me. “It took a couple years to change majors, change colleges, and then start studying glass.”
Life ultimately took David in directions other than glass — he made his living as a syndicated cartoonist for Gannett and had a nationally syndicated sports cartoon, “Offsides,” with United Media. You’ve probably seen his work. (I wish I had a better link than that!) I wasn’t really thinking of David as a cartoonist when I initially researched him and walked into his studio, but his style is pretty recognizable in retrospect. Full disclosure: David also worked for the BDN for five years as a business cartoonist, but I didn’t know that before I went.
I could go on for a while about David as a cartoonist — 25 years in that business is a long time. But even though he’s obviously got impeccable taste in newspapers, this post isn’t about David the cartoonist. It’s about David the glassblower. And all through those years he was cartooning he was still working with glass. He says that he was “very fortunate” that his cartooning was able to support his glass throughout the years because: “It was never a hobby. It was always my passion.”
“As much as I loved being a cartoonist, I always got more pleasure from glass,” he said. David always dreamed of having his own studio.
About two years ago, David converted the 200-year-old barn beside his Montville home into a glassblowing studio and has been doing it full time ever since. A lifelong dream actualized!
David was taught the Venetian style of glassblowing, which means working in teams. On the day I visited, Ben and David were able to get a lot done very quickly — and do a project that David says would have been impossible alone.
“Working here in Maine, I was concerned that I wouldn’t find trained people, or skilled people, or even anybody who would want to help me,” David said. “But I swear, there are more creative people per capita up here than anywhere I’ve ever lived.”
Plus, working alone is “never as much fun. The day goes a lot longer,” he said with a laugh.
On the note of working with others, another huge part about David is his workshops for people who have never worked in glass. He still vividly remembers what his first time handling glass was like, and loves seeing that same initial wonderment reflected in others.
“Every time I open that furnace door for the first time and the heat and the glow of the furnace come out, people step back with their eyes wide open and go ‘Wow!'” he explained. “I just love that moment.”
Normally I’d say something inspirational or cheeky to finish, but it’s been a long day for me at the BDN. Instead, I’m going to take a cue from David’s dog, Willie. I’ll leave you with this photo of him in the studio.