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Šuhájek Jiří

Šuhájek Jiří

* 1943, Pardubice, Czech Republic

A recognised glass artist and academic painter, who not only designs his works, but also forms them at the glassworks. He has won many awards both at home and abroad for his unique design and artistic creation. Likewise Jiří Šuhájek’s works created for the Moser Glassworks are very successful and much sought-after.

Education

1968 - 71 Royal College of Art, RCA, London, M. Art RCA Glass, Great Britain
1964 - 71 Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prof.  S. Libenský, Prague, Czech Republic
1957 - 61 Glassmaking Art College, painting studio, Kamenický Šenov, Czech Republic

Experience and teaching activities

Guest lecturer in many countries (USA, Japan, Sweden, Germany, Russia, etc.)
2009 - 2010 teacher Tomáš Baťa University, Zlín, Czech Republic
1999 - 2008 Teacher Glassmaking Art College, Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic
1993 - 2002 artistic director B.A.G. Glassworks, Barovier and Toso, Vsetín, Czech Republic
1979 - 1994 designer Institute of Clothing and Housing Culture, Prague, Czech Republic
1962 - 1964 and 1972-1978 Moser Glassworks artist

Representation in art collections (selection)

The Corning Museum of Glass, USA, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Great Britain, Museum der Veste, Coburg, Germany, Glasmuseum Frauenau, Germany, National Gallery and Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, Czech Republic

Awards (selection)

2010 Doctor Honoris Causa Lviv National Academy of Art, Lviv, Ukraine
2008 Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Art, Moscow, Russia
1996 Design Centre CR award - Best Design of the Year, Prague, Czech Republic
1995 Czech National Prize for Design, Czech Republic
1986 BID - Gold Star Quality, Madrid, Spain
1976 Bavarian State Prize and Gold Medal, International Glass Exhibition, Munich, Germany

    INTERVIEW WITH A DESIGNER JIŘÍ ŠUHÁJEK

    “Academic painter Jiří Šuhájek is an exceptional glass artist. He not only designs his works but creates them in the smelter as well. He is characterized by both boundless worlds of fantasy and the clearly specified designs of clients. Šuhájek’s work is easily recognizable in both areas of glass art. An inexhaustible imagination combined with perfect craftsmanship make him among the leading contemporary glass artists, and not only of his generation.” - From the official website of artist J. Šuhájek.

    Designer Jiří Šuhájek recently celebrated his seventieth birthday and his inventions and ideas are as alive today as they were fifty years ago.

    Connected to Moser Glassworks

    The first job for this graduate of the Central School of Applied Arts for Glassmaking in Kamenický Šenov was at Moser Glassworks, where he worked as a draftsman and designer. After three years, he left to study at the Academy of Arts in Prague, in the studio of Professor Stanislav Libenský, and at the same time he completed internships at the Royal School of Art in London, the Venini glass factory in Venice, and the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. From 1972 to 1978, he worked as an artist for Moser. Since then, he has cooperated with Moser on a number of original, highly successful collections.

    Mr. Šuhájek, it’s been 52 years since, as an 18-year-old, you first joined Moser Glassworks as your first workplace. What were you feeling at the time? Were you happy to be working in the glassworks?

    When the head of the glassmaking school in Kamenický Šenov gave me the position in Moser, he justified his decision by saying that I was the biggest and Karlovy Vary the farthest. It was a shock for me, but I quickly got used to it. In addition, Moser Glassworks was absolutely phenomenal at that time, so I could pursue my sporting ambitions in track and field and basketball in Karlovy Vary.

    You have created a number of very successful collections at the glassworks, always experimenting with colours. Examples are your successful series of vases called the Four Seasons, your Wheels vases for the 150th anniversary of the glassworks and your collections Lotus Flower and Angels and Wings. What fascinates you about working with Moser glass?

    The outstanding colours of Moser glass are one of the important elements that characterize the uniqueness of the glassworks. They offer artists a huge number of variations. The founder of the glassworks, Ludwig Moser, simply had a brilliant idea. I just hope we can continue this tradition, and I think the time has come to slightly expand the range.

    In addition to designing collections of table and decorative glass sets, you also created in cooperation with Moser Glassworks the monumental sculptures from the cycle Four Seasons, of which two of them - Autumn and Winter - are the new guards for the entrance of Moser Glassworks in Karlovy Vary. Our artistic director Lukáš Jabůrek has dubbed them the “Guardians of the Glassworks” and we believe they will have this power. Tell us how long it took to create this big project, making 3.5 m high seated figures, and how difficult was it?

    The project to create these monumental sculptures came about during a glassworks symposium in Nový Bor. I developed the idea in the Karolínka Glassworks in Wallachia, but most of it was done at Moser. It was a happy time for me that the management of Moser enabled me to create several sculptures. The work lasted about a month. In cooperation with employees of the glassworks, we put the metal structure together and then with the master glassblowers, we blew the crystal glass into the structure. We all worked together in unison.

    The documentary portrait of you by Czech Television called “Delicacy born of fire” was filmed in 2010 at Moser Glassworks. Was Moser chosen intentionally? Could it be said that you have a heartfelt relationship to Moser Glassworks?

    I have worked in many glassworks during the course of my design activities. They include Crystalex, Bohemia Art Glass, Karolínka, Květná, Charlotta and more. Moser will always be a matter of the heart. It was my first job, where I was introduced to the complex concepts of an exceptional glassworks, which offers almost all possible technologies.

    Where did you find the inspiration to create and has it ever happened that no ideas came to you for a long time? What can you do if that happens?

    I certainly never suffered from any lack of inspiration for Moser production. In our fifty years of cooperation, I have come up with perhaps thousands of designs, of which only a small portion were ever used. Which is logical, since the main task of the glass factory is to produce and do business. Patterning new collections and technology is also very time-consuming.

    I have a handwriting that isn’t necessarily perfect, but it's my handwriting, my way of blowing. I'm trying however possible to force it into something it doesn’t want to go into. I’ll put it aside and say so show me then!

    Is there some project you would still like to try in glassmaking but you still haven’t gotten around to it? Are you planning any such challenge?

    The challenges are many. On the one hand, there is purely design work. In this context, Moser occupies first place for me, because, as I mentioned, it’s a place that has its own specifics. Colour, grinding technology, painting, etc. Here, you can apply new principles of creation, which require close cooperation, understanding, and above all space. Designing for a glassworks like Moser requires a blend of originality and close cooperation in production and business. Also very important is to ensure original advertising and popularization of new products and artistic elements. A major part is also craftsmanship. For individual work, it continues, when possible, in the creation of blown glass sculptures. This year I was invited to three glass symposia: here, in Russia and in Poland. I’m also preparing for a symposium in Wroclaw, Poland, in Lviv, Ukraine, and in Luxemburg. Working in symposia has its own specifics. It’s important to adapt to different possibilities of production and creation available in different locations. I find this routine very inspiring. In addition to glass, I also devote my time to painting pictures.

    And how can the unique relationship of Jiří Šuhájek to glass be best explained? This answer we borrowed from his interview with journalist M. Kohoutová, Glassrevue 28/2004:

    “As a material, glass is terribly contagious, it’s an immeasurable phenomenon, and when a person starts to work with it, he enters its sphere, it teaches him and tells him things, but everyone understands it in his own way. In my case, I didn’t enjoy smelting it in ovens in casts and then shaping it. On the other hand, glassblowing is extremely fast, offers a lot of challenges, you constantly fight with it. It’s a decathlon trying to master trivial bubbles. You have to learn how to work with it for some time, practice with it, and gradually the artist can begin applying his own concepts based on certain acquired knowledge. Once you understand the rules of glass material, you have made the step where you start to understand yourself. The material forms you and you it - it’s a duel with matter. You start to understand the relationships between you and the material, and a person realizes his own essence and that of glass. It’s a dialogue between the glass and you. And it's a crazy thing.”

    and he adds: “Blown glass has the capacity for stylization and abstraction. In addition, the morphology of blown glass is limited. I have a handwriting that isn’t necessarily perfect, but it's my handwriting, my way of blowing. I'm trying however possible to force it into something it doesn’t want to go into. I’ll put it aside and say so show me then! I’ll slap at it, position it and watch what happens. It’s a dialogue that takes seconds, one that must be controlled. The errors and results are fast, they cannot be corrected, everything must begin over again. Glass has its own tectonics, own transparency and other properties, and does what it wants to do. It cracks and is terribly heavy - sometimes there’s five kilograms of glass on the blowpipe, but there can be anything from fifty to eighty kilograms in the punty. It’s a battle and you have to have the physical strength for it, otherwise you won’t get to it at the right time. For me, I’m at home with glassblowing, I love it, am always amazed by it. It’s a living creation you can have a dialogue with.”

    We thank Mr. Šuhájek for the interview and wish him much vital energy and more beautiful glass creations. The editor's office of Fresh From Moser Magazine, 2013.