Orient and Flume captures nature in glass sculptures


Master artist Bruce Sillars creating a fiery floral glass piece. Photo courtesy of Brent Sheehan, Sillar’s glass art assistant

Swirls of color dance through the iridescent and clear glass of carefully sculpted vases, animals and fruit. As you walk in Orient and Flume Art Glass, shelves are loaded with delicate nature-inspired pieces.

Orient and Flume began in 1972 when Douglas Boyd purchased a house-turned-art shop between Orient and Flume streets. Due to the quickly growing business, the shop relocated to 2161 Park Avenue and soon made their mark on galleries around the country.

Back in the late 1970s, Orient and Flume was placed in a showroom and caught the attention of big museums. Since then, their work has been displayed in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the Chicago Art Institute and hundreds of other galleries.

Chico State alumnus Bruce Sillars is the master artist behind many Orient and Flume’s successful pieces. Earning his bachelor’s degree in Art with a focus in glass, sculpture and ceramics in 1973, Sillars was their first employee and has been working in the shop for 44 years. He and Ronda Davis, Orient and Flume’s customer service and sales representative for the last 30 years, became the new owners after Boyd died.

Each handmade piece is unique because Sillars has the power to manipulate the glass different than pieces made in a production line.

“The gallery has some unique pieces and sometimes experimental,” Davis said. “Often times, they’ll try a new shape based on the production line.”

Each creation varies in price depending on how much work went into it and how big it is. A small glass strawberry retails for around $50, but a vase can go for over $4,500. This is because of the complexity and effort that goes into each piece. Sillars said that he may take 15-20 minutes for small pieces such as fruit or animals, but he has also spent six hours straight on a large vase with lots of internal floral decorations.

Despite creating a six-hour-long piece, Sillars says that glass art is the faster form compared to ceramics.

“Glass is the perfect medium for an impatient potter because a potter has to wait around for things to fire, dry and glaze,” Sillars said. “With glass, once you start the piece, you can’t put it down until it’s completed.”

Glass has an unlimited amount of possibilities. For glass sculptors in the making, Sillars said that being passionate about the subject is the biggest advice he can give.

“Someone needs to find a passion for the material,” Sillars said. “It’s too expensive and too physically demanding to do as a hobby.”

To learn more about Orient and Flume’s work, artists and history, visit http://www.orientandflume.com/ or their Facebook.

Julia Maldonado can be reached at [email protected] or @julianewsblog on Twitter.