Found and Formed
Glass artist Mitchell Gaudet finds the extraordinary in the ordinary
eugenia uhl photographs
Glassmaker Mitchell Gaudet uses a variety of found and sourced items to create breathtaking glass pieces. The esteemed, born-and-raised New Orleans glassmaker sees usefulness and potential in the lost and forgotten.
“I like the transparency and the seductiveness of glass, it suits me well,” says Gaudet.
The dome-shaped exterior of his glassmaking workshop and gallery, Studio Inferno in Arabi, resembles an oven, which is one of the primary
tools of Gaudet’s trade.
“I was into stained glass and glassblowing at one time, but especially glass casting and sand-blasting now,” says Gaudet. “That’s where you get that old-like surface, similar to patina you see on old New Orleans tombs.”
Gaudet was raised Catholic. His family lived in the Bywater for generations. He uses religious idols, both Christian and East Asian in his work.
“I feel comfortable picking on the Catholic Church, respectfully,” he says. “The holy statues were given to me by a friend after Hurricane Katrina. The church salvaged everything they could, but she offered those remaining to me.”
Gaudet’s creations range in size, shape and meaning. Small, pressed-glass bowls, framed pieces and larger projects are comprised of various objects, many of which are from Gaudet’s world travels.
“Most of my work is with found objects and toys,” said Gaudet. “I’ve had this small iron-cast hand with a thumb missing that I acquired years ago, and I use it in so much of my work, I would be lost without it.”
Most recently Gaudet has begun to not only use the objects he collects to create molds, but he has also started to incorporate the objects into the work, frequently creating around the object, keeping it the main subject so it doesn’t get lost in the piece.
“I’m doing this thing where I work with objects people have to create a piece, so someone may come to me and say ‘this was my grandfather’s copper tool from when he was a barrel maker, and we want you to create a piece around it’,” he says. “After I get to know the piece and what the client’s needs are I have creative freedom to do my thing.”
Gaudet puts on heavy duty mitts to pick up a giant spoon, he then sticks it into a 1,200 F oven filled with lava-red liquid. The spoon, is full of the liquid glass when he pulls it from the oven and pours it into a mold, and then he turns a lever on a century-old glass-presser from 1912.
“I got this thing on eBay,” he says, “I am so happy.”
The glass immediately begins to harden, so he uses enormous tongs to pick up the now bowl-shaped glass and put it in an oven to continue cooling for the next 24 to 48 hours.
“That’s another thing about glass, you make it, and it ends up taking many hours before you get to see the final result,” says Gaudet.
Running a production line since 1991 with the opening of Studio Inferno, Gaudet has refined his craft and expanded his partnerships and reputation in the community. Among his projects is the partition wall at the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, made from recycled glass. Some of his recent projects involve interactive art installations, a wall of glass insects and award trophies for schools and organizations throughout the city, including projects for Lambeth House and St. Mary’s Dominican High School.
“I do custom artwork, and I do my own artwork, along with large architectural commissions and other benefit projects to support the community and promote art,” he says.
He can make anything ranging from $10 for a small item or pointing to some of the work displayed in the Studio Inferno gallery, valued upwards of $30,000.
In addition to operating Studio Inferno and using it as his workspace, and an available gallery space to other artists, Gaudet and his wife, artist and fabricator Erica Larkin Gaudet, in partnership with the Meraux Foundation, manage Studio Arabi, which is made up of several studios along St. Claude Avenue. The area is in development as a two-block artist campus with studios, galleries, a theater and ultimately residences for artists at various stages of their careers.
Visit Studio Inferno and the surrounding Studio Arabi spaces located at 6601 St Claude Ave., or contact Mitchell Gaudet at 504-945-1878.