Lost Art Glass
In search of The Springs
There’s a six-foot-diameter, rotating glass globe in Larry Brookins’ studio that looms eight feet tall, is lit from within and took him a year to make.
And, oh yes, it holds a $60,000 price tag. There are people, he explains with the placidity of a patient tour guide, who have expressed interest. Brookins is not holding his breath. He’s had it for 25 years and at this point, he feels like it’s some kind of permanent penance—the price he’s paid for pursuing his muse in colored glass.
Sixty grand may not be an unfair price. Brookins’ studio overflows with works of lambent wonder—big, wide, high and heavy—pieces culled from his extravagant imagination and crafted with intimate, elaborate care. They are “the residue,” he says with a smile, “of 40 years of unemployment.”
That’s not entirely true. Brookins keeps food on the table through window restoration and repair work, some of it quite extensive and expensive. A recent job involved restoring a set of 19th-century religious windows made by a Spanish artist for Mission Dolores, damaged in the 1906 earthquake. Brookins replaced 300 pieces of broken glass and combined the panels into a single window for installation in the California Mission Museum at Cline Cellars.
His original works range from scarab beetle lamps to Native American tableaus to elaborate scenes of Rockwellian Americana. There’s a five-foot-tall Egyptian sculpture featuring royal servants, more scarab beetles, black mamba snakes and 300 crystals, all set in a metal frame. There’s a glass and metal bust sporting a face like Isis and an elongated skull inspired by the sci-fi fantasy work of Swiss artist H.R. Giger.
And in the front window of his Highway 12 studio glows an exquisite glass replica of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the boating party.”
Lately he’s been building enormous glass and wood ceiling light fixtures and a series of dimensional skylights.
Brookins fell into glass art on his way to a biology degree at Sonoma State. It started as a hobby but soon became a passion, a métier, a way of life. Forty years later, the tools and materials haven’t changed much. He uses glass, lead came, cadmium, water and gum arabic. He stains the glass to just the right hue, then paints it and shapes it on a mold. Each step requires firing in a kiln he keeps in his kitchen at the back of the studio, in a small apartment where he also lives.
Lost Art Glassworks is open 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday.
17501 Sonoma Highway. 707.935.5938.
From the Spring 2008 issue of SONOMA