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February 17, 2004 > Andaluzia Art Glass

Andaluzia Art Glass

Lampworking by Lionel Chapital

The City of Newark holds many surprises and among the most pleasant is the fact that it is the home base of a talented glass artist who, after world-wide travels and acclaim, claims Newark as his home. At Newark Memorial High School, Lionel Chapital worked with leather and small crafts but "hadn't considered doing anything serious with arts and crafts." He moved to San Francisco in 1978 and subsequently, a friendship led him to "see what I could do in New York City." So, it was off to the East Coast in "the dead of winter," 1983. He says, "I'm a bit of an adventurer." Although "a thread" of the arts has run through Lionel's life - he studied Music at Ohlone College - it hasn't always been a motivation for his moves.

His move to New York City proved to be pivotal since it was there he was introduced to glass work. From 1983 until 1990, Lionel stayed with a group of people and apprenticed in the art under Milon Townsend, a renowned glass artist in "lampworking." Working with a torch and combustible fuel, usually propane and oxygen, the heat melts "hard glass" (typically borasilicate) and the artist is able to manipulate the semi-solid before it hardens again.

"We had a store on 6th Avenue and 14th Street, right on the edge of Greenwich Village. A lot of the major dance companies - Alvin Ailey, American Dance Theatre, Martha Graham, etc. - came to us for special pieces such as glass awards or gifts showing dancers in a particular pose. "Sometimes they would give us a picture and at times, they would pose for us." We then developed a line of dance figurines that were sold in the store. Lionel's experience in New York City was interesting since a wide range of people came through the store. "Our store was unique because, not only was it a storefront, but we did the work right there - you got the show! People were able to see you do your art right there. I do the same thing at times at the Gift Gallery in Fremont."

Glass is an unusual material according to Lionel since most materials are consumed or transformed by flames. "It is a supercooled liquid, transformed momentarily so it can be manipulated." He remarks that once the changes are made, they are seamless. "When I first watched Milon working with glass, I was fascinated by how he was able to make the glass so fluid." As time passed, the store grew in scope, adding a wholesale business to the retail side and "things came to a point where we were ready for a change." The "adventurer spirit" was still strong within Lionel and after eight years, it was time to move on.

Now married, Lionel and his wife, Noriko, decided to move to Spain. "I had always wanted to see Europe and when the opportunity arose, we took it." Setting up shop in Spain allowed him to experience another culture. He says, "I learned a lot about the world." Working with a glass cooperative in the Mediterranean province of Valencia, he continued developing designs although he says that his work with and apprenticeship under Milon Townsend for eight years, always creates "a ribbon of your teacher's style in the work." Eventually, he established an independent practice in Barcelona and "immersed himself in the Catalan culture and its art."

Now, Lionel says he can see his work evolving. "I am definitely in a different period now than I was even five years ago." After ten years in Spain, family ties brought him back to Newark in 2000. "We had to decide whether our children should grow up in close proximity to the family - all my family is here in the Tri-City area." Settling in Newark, Lionel now has clientele in the Bay Area and New York. His work is currently available locally at the Gift Gallery at the corner of Washington and Mission Boulevards in the Mission San Jose District of Fremont. He says commissioned pieces are available so if someone wants a particular design or object, he can work with them to create it.

The workshop is at his house so when Lionel's children, Andres Miguel, 13; Elizabeth, 10 and Jacob, 7 or any of his nieces and nephews are hanging around asking if they can do something, he has them make marbles. "It's fun and good practice. They think it's neat!"

Lionel says his favorite subject is the human figure and much of his artistry is of dancers and figurines. He is also fascinated with nature and the insect world, creating butterflies, dragonflies, spiders, frogs, and illustrates the supernatural world with his portrayal of angels, fairies and dragons. Lionel Chapital's Andaluzia Art Glass is sure to blossom in popularity and for Tri-City citizens, the opportunity to see and purchase this exquisite artwork may be limited. An "up close and personal" inspection is welcomed at the Gift Gallery in Mission San Jose or by calling Lionel directly. At press time, a store demonstration of lampworking by Lionel has not yet been scheduled.

Lionel Chapital
Andaluzia Art Glass
(510) 745-0897

Gift Gallery
43301 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(Mission San Jose District)
(510) 353-1700

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