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From Smashed Tarantulas to Chihuly!

Carol Tenwalde

After the brouhaha died down last week over the smashed tarantula post, I got to thinking about shapes. Maybe I could make some pendants or motifs that don't look like ugly bugs. Chihuly immediately came to mind for inspiration. You can watch a short video: CLICK But then I stumbled on something really amazing, the Delicate Sea Creatures by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka from the late 1800.

In the late 1800s a mysterious menagerie of sea creatures was let loose on the world.

They came in a remarkable variety of forms: covered in spikes, writhing masses of legs, purple gelatinous lumps, transparent bubbling orbs. They swam through boarding schools in Minnesota, floating through the Vienna Natural History Museum, and squirming through a hundred high schools across Japan. At the height of their expansion, there were over 10,000, found everywhere from New Zealand to Calcutta.

Astonishing in form and beauty, these creatures comprised 700 varieties of invertebrate marine models sculpted in glass by Bohemian father-and-son team Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. They were remarkable for their fragile exteriors, scientific accuracy, and beauty. But gradually, these glass animals began to disappear, their habitats shifting into dusty closets and museum storage. People began to forget that these incredible glass creations had existed in the first place.

How it Happened: The advent of cheap plate glass allowed for the first major public aquarium to open in 1853 in London, but museums had a problem. While they aimed to populate their collections with the world's animals, the stranger creatures of the oceans were particularly problematic. Impossible to render in taxidermy, the ocean's invertebrates had to be shown as wet specimens, floating in jars of alcohol. However, without bones to structure them, they collapsed into small puddles at the bottom of the jar, their colors fading away.

It was this void that the Blaschka models filled. It is hard to believe that the glass blowing techniques the Blaschka's used more than 150 years ago are very similiar to the techniques Chihuly uses today!





Next week I'll show you what I created.
Let's chat again soon,


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