Seven Centuries of Czech Art Glass

15 million years ago an incoming asteroid is thought to have broken into two pieces. They hit with such velocity to melt and splatter the target rock, creating Moldavite, across what is now the Czech Republic. Clearly the region was rich in the elements needed to produce glass.

Czech glass and crystal production has been a prized craft in Europe for 700 hundreds years. Bohemia, being the seat of royalty and emperors for much of the Middle Ages, was at the “cutting edge” of glass design and production then and now. Holding a Czech crystal glass up normal light results in “multiple rainbows” as the lead content increases the light refraction properties, like looking into hundreds of prisms simultaneously. Czech glass, with less lead content, has been cut into various designs but lacks the light refraction properties of cut crystal. Both are cut in the same way.

A different kind of explosion occurred in the 1960s, innovation and creativity, inspired by Professor Stanislav Libenský. Surrounded by a small group of students, Libensky broke new ground in size, style and dimensionality, ushering a global renaissance in contemporary art glass design. Most of today’s museum and collector quality Czech Art Glass Designers were Libenský’s young students forty years ago. For the most part, the general public never saw these creations which were curated by exclusive galleries in the United States and Europe.

ZFolio began in 2003 with a suitcase of optical crystals destined for the Victorian Christmas Street Fair in California, displayed in the frosty winter evening and lit by flashlights dangling from poles. So popular was this humble beginning that within a year Z invested her life savings in a small inventory of art glass, representing the most contemporary designs from her native Czech Republic’s 700-year glassmaking tradition.

As with so many traditional crafts, today Czech Art Glass is threatened by globalization. This, compounded by glass blowing, and equally important cutting and finishing, being physical and taking years of apprenticeship, the art is something most young people are shy of perusing.

Z and her husband Michael have cultivated and sustained strong working relationships with students of Libenský and those who followed. For the past fifteen years ZFolio has been one of the few venues in the United States where the general public can experience the unique style and precision craft that has been coveted by collectors and connoisseurs for centuries. Come and see. There is nothing quite like it  in the world.