December 31st, 2022
Spheres of influence can be a powerful force in the art world, especially in the world of glass blowing where the expense and necessity of glass blowing specific equipment, kilns, and materials make resource sharing among artists common. It would be reasonable and expected for a former apprentice of the world famous Swedish Glass Blowing artists to want to settle in the US glass blowing hubs of New York or Seattle, or somewhere where fellow glass blowing masters and artists can gather and share resources, ideas, and equipment.
Instead, however, husband and wife glass blowing duo Jared and Nicole Davis intentionally shielded themselves from further influence from other glass artists and allowed the natural beauty of their chosen home of Crawford, Colorado to be the constant inspiration for their unique, captivating glass work. Geographically isolated from other renowned glass-blowing artists, they have turned to the natural environment for inspiration and to each other for collaboration.
Their home and studio in Crawford, Colorado sits on the Western Slope of the state, just beyond the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Sitting on the edge of the Black Canyon, one is immediately overwhelmed by a sense of the power and magnitude of nature. The famous striations on these massive walls of metamorphic granite and schist are mirrored in the textured, rugged surfaces of Davis’ “Mountain Vista” series. In these glass works, the harmonious juxtaposition of the rugged, rocky outer vase with the smooth, luminous inner vase reflects the aesthetic of the craggy canyon walls against the wash of vast sky in the Black Canyon. Together, Jared and Nicole Davis have interpreted the sublimity of the landscape that surrounds them into brilliantly lustrous and powerful works of art.
With this landscape as ready, daily inspiration, Jared and Nicole Davis are all the more attuned to nature’s vulnerabilities. “The medium of glass itself relates to the work we create with it,” Jared Davis explains, “because it’s about the juxtaposition between the fragility of the glass itself and the fragility of our landscape, like the disappearing of our water or our monuments or whatever it may be. Our landscape is like glass: once it’s gone, it’s gone. Glass you cannot repaint or start over, and that’s our concern with our world as well.”
“Glass has an energy about it, and we’re putting our energy into it and watching where it goes. I see the fragility of it, but more so, I see the power in it, the energy in it, and the energy it takes to create it.
– Nicole Davis
This sentiment is directly reflected in many of their glass series, like that of their Riverway Series, which provide beautifully abstract aerial views of rivers carving through canyons. In a way, these pieces become something of glass time capsules, preserving a unique landscape in an ephemeral moment in time, while simultaneously, subtly evoking a sense of responsibility for its preservation.
Much like the changing landscape that inspires their work, the glass media can take on a life of its own when they work it. Nicole Davis explains, “Glass has an energy about it, and we’re putting our energy into it and watching where it goes. Sometimes it has a mind of its own. I see the fragility of it, but more so, I see the power in it, the energy in it, and the energy it takes to create it. It’s a complicated recipe and everything has to go together just right for you to get it perfect at the end because there are a number of things that can go wrong.”
Neither Jared nor Nicole ever intended on working with glass on a professional level, or even on having a career in the arts. The child of a visual artist, Jared Davis always regarded art as a difficult way to make a living – and acknowledges that, in many ways, it still is -, but he has found that his passion for the material and creation makes the challenge worthwhile.
On the other hand, Nicole Davis remembers being far more reluctant to fully embrace becoming a full-time artist. Art was always a passion for Nicole Davis and she worried that creating art for a living might jeopardize her love for it: “Art is a positive expression for me,” she explains, “and I didn’t want to have to be judged or risk that creativity being taken away by having to make a living at it.”
When the couple first started dating, Jared had a job at a glass blowing studio. By the time that Nicole was pregnant with their second child, Jared was invited to attend a two-year apprenticeship with glass masters Jan-Erik Ritzman and Sven Åke Carlsson in Sweden. Only two artists are selected a year from across the globe to apprentice with these masters, so both Jared and Davis understood what a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it would be, so together, they moved to Sweden and raised their children there together for two years.
Jared recounts the wealth of knowledge that these masters possessed and imparted onto him and his wife during this time: “The two gentlemen that we studied with were part of the research and development team in the glass factories in Sweden when they were young, so they were exposed to a lot of different designers that were attempting to create works for the leading Swedish glassworks. They were bombarded with all these ideas and things the designers were trying to come up with. Now when a student has a request, they could show you five different ways to reach the same outcome.” Ritzman’s and Carlsson’s true mastery of the media enabled Jared and Nicole to learn new and innovative techniques that they might not have been exposed to otherwise.
While Jared apprenticed in the glass blowing studio with these masters, Nicole was often invited into the studio to learn and collaborate as well. Her recollection of their experience is one out of a Scandinavian fairytale: “The space was in the middle of this little village, surrounded by lakes and forests filled with lingonberries and chanterelle mushrooms where we would fish and have picnics and get together with everyone. It was a really wonderful place.”
While in the Swedish studio, Nicole sought to come up with a design that they could bring back to Colorado – one that would resonate well with the Western Contemporary style of their US home. It was during their time in Sweden in 1996 that she came up with the idea for their now renowned glass antlers.
Nicole has always found greater inspiration in nature’s quieter, more intimate moments, while Jared finds greater inspiration in the grander expanses of nature. Nicole elaborates, “Honestly, I think I pull more towards animal habitats like nests, antlers, and feathers. I find such beauty in all of that. Jared is drawn more towards a broader view of the landscape on a larger scale. He’s inspired by more desert forms and canyons. Together, we can add our points of view of color and shape and form. It really all does come together.” As a duo, Nicole’s intimate vignettes and Jared’s sweeping views blend harmoniously to create a fuller, more complete picture of nature in all of its beautiful iterations.
“I pull more towards animal habitats. I find such beauty in all of that. Jared is drawn more towards a broader view of the landscape on a larger scale. Together, we can add our points of view of color and shape and form. It really all does come together.”
– Nicole Davis
Despite Nicole’s early reluctance to claim her rightful title of collaborative artist, she has now found the confidence and voice to own her incredible contributions to the work. “At the beginning, I kind of stepped back because it’s a pretty vulnerable place to be an artist and to put your name on a piece. It was a little scary to put myself out there, and I was more than happy to support Jared and his creativity. It took me a little while to get the self-esteem and guts to step out and really start putting both of our names on our designs.”
While the idea of a husband and wife working artist team might sound foreign and a little challenging to some people, Jared Davis observes how his and Nicole’s artistic and personal relationship is not an anomaly in the glass blowing world: “We’re actually not unique in the glass world as far as being a husband and wife team. There are quite a few others like us. One of the reasons for this is that it takes a minimum of two people – and sometimes a lot more – to create a work of glass, particularly the type of work that we are doing. In some ways, it makes more sense to work with a partner that knows you so well. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but the beauty of collaborating on a piece is that it’s fun to bounce ideas off of each other. Nicole may come back with something that wasn’t even in my head and vice versa, and it allows us to have with even more creativity. From a technical perspective and a creative one, it helps to have somebody who knows you as well as you know yourself.”
In fact, Nicole and Jared Davis believe that their artistic relationship deepens their personal relationship and vice versa. “To brainstorm with your partner and see something manifest physically is a pretty amazing thing,” Jared says. Nicole agrees, marveling on the connection that they share in the studio when creating something together: “Because we were bound by that piece, and we’re both putting so much into it, it’s quite an amazing experience, and I’m really grateful I get to have that with Jared, because we really do become one in that moment. When we’re working together, there’s no distinction between where I start and he ends. It’s meditation, it’s a magical experience.”
“As far as being a husband and wife team, in some ways, it makes more sense to work with a partner that knows you so well. From a technical perspective and a creative one, it helps to have somebody who knows you as well as you know yourself.”
– Jared Davis
As beautiful as this shared experience and the bond it creates can be, Jared does concede one con to being a husband/wife artist duo: “the downside is that there is no one to console you at the end of the work day.” Jared remembers a particularly rough day in the studio recently when the work that both he and his wife had poured their hearts into for weeks shattered in front of his eyes. He laughs a little at the memory now, acknowledging, “If you have a bad day in the studio, then that’s a shared experience.”
We at Gallery MAR are proud that the collaborative work of Jared and Nicole Davis has been a part of our Gallery MAR story from the beginning. In fact, the origin story of Jared and Nicole Davis joining the Gallery MAR team is one that Jared loves to tell. Years ago, Jared and Nicole were in Salt Lake City for a Fine Art Show that they now affectionately refer to as their “Best Worst Show Ever.” Despite a large number of highly talented artists at this particular show, poor marketing ensured that hardly any visitors came out to the show at all. Of the entire Salt Lake City and Park City area, only four people ended up coming to the entire show. However, one of those four people just so happened to be Gallery MAR owner Maren Mullin. Jared remembers fondly, “Maren found us at that show and asked us if we would like to show our work at her gallery in Park City and the rest is history. Gallery MAR has been our best gallery ever since.”
Nicole feels that the success of their partnership with Gallery MAR derives from the passion that Maren and her team have for the work. “At Gallery MAR, they really spend the time getting to know the artist and getting to know what goes into the pieces,” Nicole says, “Plus, they are so good with everyone who walks in. I notice when we walk in, everyone gets treated equally and they’re always very attentive. I love their passion for the work.” Jared agrees, elaborating, “I think Maren appreciates what we do and I think that makes a big difference as well. There’s a general level of communication and honesty that she has to all her artists that is hard to find.”
This past month, we welcomed a new body of work by Jared and Nicole Davis in their joint exhibition with local artist Havoc Hendricks, “Mountain Dreams” at Gallery MAR. In this new exhibition, we’re thrilled to share with you, our collectors, the beloved “Mountain Vista” and “Glass Antler” series by Jared and Nicole Davis, with a colorful twist: This body of work features colors that the duo have never before used in the studio, favoring the same earthy qualities you love, but adding “more depth and fun to the pieces.” We’re honored to continue sharing with you Jared & Nicole Davis’ luminous glass symbols of the power and fragility within nature, within glass, and within all of us.
Written by Veronica Vale