2014 may have just gotten started, but we’re in full-on #TrendWatch mode for cafes featuring tasteful one-off designer cups from fine local artists. The collabo between Go Get Em Tiger and Los Angeles ceramicist Ben Medansky is the gold standard right now, but we predict many more masterfully made mugs will be a big thing in 2014. By why stick with the tasteful, the comfortable, the non-discursive? Consider these glass baby doll head cups as a next must-have purchase for your speciality coffee bar. If David Lynch and David Cronenberg opened a coffee bar, this is what they’d make you drink from.
Baby Head Cups, “daring” and “timeless” pieces of contemporary glassware designed by glass worker Oliver Doriss, have been featured at the Guggenheim in New York, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, and boutiques across the country. Mr. Doris is a veteran of Dale Chihuly‘s revered glass design team, and the mugs are now available at the Fulcrum Gallery in Tacoma and online for $37, $45 shipped. They have also been made available to the general audience this month via the official website (www.babyheadglasses.com) and Etsy.
According to fan Elizabeth Robichaud, who’s quoted on the Baby Head official website, these pieces are “so endearingly bizarre, [the cups] produces a lot of cognitive dissonance. I love it and plan to acquire some siblings for it in other colors.” We couldn’t agree more, and so we tracked down Mr. Doriss for a brief interview on the origin of the baby head mug.
Oliver, tell us more about the work you’ve done with glass.
I have been a glass worker since I was 16, so I’ve been working in the field for 23 years. I don’t identify with the term “Glass Artist” as it sort of “Pidgin holes” you into a very narrow decorative arts/craft thing. My most creative enterprises as an artist don’t have anything to do with glass.
When we first saw your baby head cups my first thought was shock. We were terrified. But then our thoughts immediately changed to “I must have them.” Is this a common reaction from people? Is there a niche audience of die-hard doll enthusiasts that love them?
People either love them or hate them. They are intentionally creepy with the blank stare created in a variety of cheerful pastel colors. I have been producing them on and off for about 15 years. It seems to be a strong product because it produces such a visceral reaction. No one is indifferent. One of my assistants who helps me make them has to load them facing away because he can’t stand them staring at him and my UPS driver hates the way the eyes follow him around the room.
How did the Baby Head cups get started?
Lets go back in time to Boston Massachusetts 1993 (dream sequence sound). I was in my early twenties, living out in Brighton at the time. Similar to many young adults my friends were able to rent this huge house and filled it with creative types. They all piled into this giant home with a band practice room in the basement. I spent many a fun filled evening at this house, parties, dinners and everything in between. It was known as the Big House, “Groove Butcher” was the house band and everyone was playing shows and involved in the in Alston scene, AKA “Rock City.”
It was a creative and exciting time, so much was going on. On a particular day one of the house members came home with two garbage bags full of doll parts, heads legs bodies. Needless to say our creativity got the better of us and the crafting began. Doll parts everywhere. Have you ever seen an illuminated strand of baby doll Christmas lights? They’re awesome! The eyes would glow through the creepy flesh tone empty socket.
This went on for months until we had worked though our stash. We would plant doll heads in each others stuff, and it wasn’t uncommon to open up your courier bag at work the next day to find a doll head in there. They were in the cabinets, baby doll hand drawer pulls, even in the shower, you name it. During this time I was producing glass and working through my degree at Massachusetts College of Art. It seems that every artist goes through a doll part phase. It is such powerful, iconic image. I mean they don’t even look like children; it’s just this ready-made weird symbolic form that says creepy innocence.
At Mass Art I had access to foundry equipment as well as hot glass so it wasn’t long before I crafted a two-part metal blow mold to make glass baby heads. My original concept had a long stalk for the neck topped with a doll head which was to be clustered in groups, totally immature, but awesome. Naturally money was becoming a factor in my life and it wasn’t long before I was making and marketing the Baby Head Bong, complete with these two adorable little horns on it.
The Baby Head Cups has served as a macabre canvas for a many decorations. I mean, I’ve made baby head everything: decanters, goblets, baby head devil horns, and even a clown, complete with a red nose. This mold has been a part of my tool kit for many years. During my time producing work for Dale Chihuly any glass start with a flaw in the decoration, like a bubble or scar, would get blown into the baby head mold producing drinking glasses for the crew. Ultimately we had this amazing collection of Baby Head Cups with Chihuly colors and decoration.
It was silly; you could track his design progression just by looking in our cupboard.