Tucked down an alley in Ballard, behind a non-descript wooden door, we found Granite Calimpong’s expansive studio. There he shares a space – the 5416 Artist Collective — with several local artists, including a leather handbag designer, a printmaker, and another glassblower. The space was a woodshop for boat builders for a century before the artists moved in seven years ago. Together they have created a space for making, designing, and collaborating.
We walked through the hot shop and sat down in Granite’s corner of the studio, with counter tops filled with stacks of color bars and marble tiles. In front of one window is a dusty grid of goblets, and perched in front of the other, a row of small succulents. The tunes of Frank Ocean filled the air, and we settled in to have a chat.
Raised in rural Northern California, there was a quietness to Granite’s childhood. His dad would take him fly-fishing along the river almost daily. Home was in an old farm house with a barn converted into an art studio, and life was filled with handmade objects. That Granite would find himself seeking a creative life was only natural. After all, he comes from a family of artists. His dad is a full-time artist, creating functional pottery for restaurants, and showing his sculpture in galleries. His mom is a quilter, and his sister a painter.
In college at University of California San Diego, he majored in Computing in Arts & Music, but he threw pots in his free time. His senior year, he fell into glassblowing, and started blowing goblets on Friday nights with his friends. He became consumed by the process and worked intensely at improving his skills. In 2007, in a moment of serendipity, Granite received a scholarship through the UCSD Craft Center to study at Pilchuck Glass School. That summer, he headed to Pilchuck for the first time to take Davide Salvadore’s class. Like many Pilchuck stories go, he made friends with a group of artists and glassmakers, and when the session ended, he and his now-wife settled in Seattle.
Over the last decade, he’s worked as an assistant and gaffer for many Seattle glassblowers, taught classes across the country, and exhibited his work up and down the West Coast. Last Fall he received recognition from American Craft.
His approach to object making is unique compared to other glassmakers. It’s evident he has a thorough knowledge and embraces critical aspects of ceramic history. He’s studied Japanese, Chinese, and Korean ceramics, and names California artist Kenneth Price and L.A. artists from the early Ferus Gallery as sources of inspiration. Proportion, scale, and functionality inform his work. With glass, he was driven to create forms that the glass material doesn’t naturally allow for, so he added coldworking to his process. He deconstructs traditional forms and then reassembles them in creative ways.
Granite is always looking for new ways to work with with the material. In his residency at Museum of Glass last December, he chose to spend the time experimenting. He wanted to get away from defined forms and let the material guide the process. The new works he created are a huge departure from his previous body of work; they’re still works in progress but we look forward to introducing them to our collectors soon.