Mueller builds up glass blowing with architecture skills

When it comes to art, are you up on the local talent Milwaukee has to offer? Are you familiar with glass art; does the name Dale Chihuly ring a bell? Well, art enthusiasts are bound to be familiar with Chihuly pieces at the Milwaukee Art Museum, but are probably not familiar with up-and-coming glass artist Paul Mueller.Mueller is a Milwaukee native who grew up on the East Side and received a degree in architecture from UW-Milwaukee.

While working in the local architecture industry, Mueller has taken up a hobby, glass blowing. As a fan and collector of ancient Egyptian and Roman glass, Mueller decided to try his hand at the craft.

In 1999, he took a class in Door County and found an addiction for mastering the art. Jeremy Popelka of Popelka Trenchard Glass in Sturgeon Bay ( was his teacher and is now his mentor. Mueller rents time at the studio to develop his portfolio of molten works of art.

"I have a fascination with taking a 2,000 degree molten colorless blob, adding color to it and shaping it into a usable form," says Mueller. "It requires such delicate movement at high speeds. Once you get going, it is an incredible dance."

"Paul decided to take the class due to his interest in historical pieces, and he has been here 20 to 30 times since," says Popelka. "The serious side of his interest has been helpful in his experimentation with techniques. He is always mentally and physically prepared."

With his architectural background, Mueller sketches out his ideas. He enjoys seeing how the drawing is interpreted as he works the glass and then translates into a final product.

He describes most of his work as classical and ancient in form with a modern coloration. He strives for classical symmetrical forms. It's important to him that all of his pieces are functional. "They are not meant to just sit on a shelf; they are meant to be used and enjoyed," Mueller says.

Currently he is exploring 1950s Italian work, specifically from a color perspective. He also is fascinated with ancient Islamic art glass and the use of molds to create patterns and surface relief. He wants to experiment with various materials such as blowing glass into wood or metal molds.

"His roots are in the history of glass, yet he brings his own sense of color and design," says Popelka. "With an architectural background he has to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the material, and he has done so very well. His drawings are so good that you can always see what he is after, and he's constantly looking around and striving to try new things."

Both Popelka and Mueller find that glass art has gained more attention thanks to the work of Chihuly. They are hoping that as a result a bigger audience will emerge to appreciate their work.

Mueller is excited about his introduction to the Milwaukee art scene and looks forward to perfecting his craft. "I am really a novice, and I still have a long way to go," he says. He's just breaking into the local art community and recently completed a show at Art Bar. He is a member of MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) and plans to be involved in several shows this summer as well as to works with an art broker for more national exposure.

600450 Mueller builds up glass blowing with architecture skills
Date: 20 January 2005

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