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About Larry Zgoda
A look at stained glass artist Larry Zgoda's work over the last 30 years makes it clear why he's never been bored. Known as an innovator, Zgoda has continually created fresh new ways to expand the use of glass as an architectural art form.
In the process, he's built up a body of work that is consistently brilliant and constantly evolving.
Since 1974, the artist has produced unique original work in the form of windows, doors, screens and walls of glass used in architectural settings as well as a collection of free standing art pieces and objects. Meticulous workmanship, a focused use of color and the refractive properties of the material as well as a natural attraction toward clean, sophisticated design characterize Zgoda's installations.
"I've always been interested in the inherent crystalline qualities of glass. The mineral structure itself naturally suggests certain geometries that lean towards the straight line and so that's been an on-going element in what I've found interesting to explore."
Zgoda's work is known for its geometric elegance, but the artist says he doesn't feel limited to a single successful design strategy or methodology.
"I tend to follow an idea or a particular direction for a period of time…maybe just a short while or as long as four or five or six years."
"One idea naturally leads to another. I love having a range of work that's evolving. It's exciting and it means I don't feel burned out."
Although Zgoda describes the creation of stained glass as "fundamentally a fairly simple craft," he says that the endless combinations of light and refraction, translucence and transparency, texture and color, provide a real wealth of design options. "It's the use of these various qualities and the fluency one has with the design vocabulary that set each person and his work apart."
"I think part of what makes stained glass work so intriguing, year after year, is its long cultural history and the knowledge that we've been part of a real Renaissance of the craft in the last 20 or 30 years. There's been a great opportunity to take what we know from the past and invent new ways of using light and glass to create beautiful objects and beautiful environments."
Generally, Zgoda works closely with both his clients and the design team professionals to create stained glass work that is an integral element of the architectural whole. "The glass work should be much more than merely decorative. It should have a sense of belonging from the beginning and enhance the entire design of the space."
Following his graduation from Columbia College with a degree in filmmaking, Zgoda took a job at an architectural antiques store in Chicago where he soon became the resident expert on repairing and restoring salvaged architectural details from old buildings.
Since opening his own studio in 1978, Zgoda has created architectural glass work for public buildings and corporate office spaces, as well as for churches and private residences. In the process, he's earned a national reputation as an artist whose deep understanding of the inherent properties of his medium inform and enhance his designs.
"This work is satisfying on many levels. There's the thoughtful, purely creative portion of the design work, where you think through the way you want to use the shapes, the colors, levels of light and refraction in the design. And then there's the physical part that involves cutting glass and working metal. It provides a healthy balance," Zgoda says.
A native Chicagoan, Zgoda lives within walking distance of his studio on the city's north side. "I love walking and I hate driving. Another wonderful thing for me about this work is that in over 20 years I've never had to commute!"
Larry Zgoda Discusses His Evolving Range of Work
Since opening his Chicago Studio in 1978, Larry Zgoda has pursued multiple design ideas, each one enhancing the next. "In the early years, I often worked with renovators and decorators using a variety of historic styles and themes. But when I started creating more innovative original work, beginning in the late 1970's, I became interested in what I called severe geometries - angles and patterns suggested by the linear structure of crystal."
"I've always thought that the use of color should be very focused and for a while I experimented with 'stainless glass,' which had very little color or no color. It was about exploring texture, lines and pattern, as well as light and shadow. I've always liked the use of beveled glass for the way it breaks sunshine into rainbows; this can be surprisingly effective with a monochromatic palette."
"There are several directions I'm going right now. I've been interested in creating some pieces of glasswork that may be displayed on easels, or that are freestanding, for use on the floor or a tabletop. On the other hand, I'm really intrigued by doing large projects with mosaics and mixing glass and ornamental ironwork using very rich, very intense colors inspired by historic architecture."
"I have an idea about using stained glass in conjunction with a reflecting pool and a mosaic wall to explore color, light, reflections and kinetics."