Handsomely Made

A local glassblower expands his craft in the burgeoning El Segundo business district.

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    Zoe Alexander

Take the ancient art of glassblowing, toss in the aesthetics of modern design, mix in some urban punk, and you get Joe Cariati. Joe is a glassblower whose design space, 141 Penn Studios, is flourishing in El Segundo. And if you’ll pardon the pun, Joe’s work is white-hot.

Joe’s decanters and bottles are available at high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, as well as hip shops like Jonathan Adler and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. His translucent bottle collections have appeared in many magazines. Their unique shapes and colors enhance a variety of interiors and instantly dazzle a tabletop.

What makes Joe’s work distinctive is its classic style with a bit of an edge and his dedication to handmade quality. Joe was always drawn to working with his hands. He recalls that his teenage years were spent tinkering on motorcycles or painting. His mother suggested that he take a glassblowing class when he was in high school, but he didn’t heed her advice until college and immediately sensed it was a calling.

“It’s perfect for my personality,” he says. “It’s very direct, and you rely on a team. It’s very engaging, but you also have to chill. It’s like yoga; it’s active
and mindful.”

After teaching workshops at universities in the U.S. and abroad as well as performing residencies, Joe settled in Los Angeles in 2003. His early work earned him an instant following, and as he gained momentum he established his signature sense of design.

By educating himself in modern design and tracking trends of companies like Design Within Reach for inspiration, he says, “I started designing things that I thought were missing. I would look at these mid-century books and imagine things that could go into these environments from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. What’s old is new again. I’m taking old forms and refining , stripping them down.”

It’s very engaging, but you also have to chill. It’s like yoga; it’s active and mindful.

Joe also prides himself on the handmade nature of his work. He explains, “This is what makes our product special. In the industry and in factory situations, they are blowing into a mold that gives it a consistent shape, but it makes the glass look and feel a little cold. We literally hand-make every single thing from beginning to end, which causes variance in the glass and also creates a residue of the human hand. We don’t mass-produce. I’m a champion for keeping our work here in the U.S., keeping up the tradition of glassblowing.”

With the popularity of handmade products at the forefront of current design, Joe’s work is in high demand and he plans to expand his collection. In 2015 he’ll start production on pendants and tabletop lamps.

When Joe set up 141 Penn Studio, the space afforded him the ability to truly build his business and his brand. His former studio in the warehouse district of Downtown LA was too expensive and hot. The El Segundo location offers an easy commute, an ideal climate and a bustling, business-friendly culture. Joe uses the 4,500-square-foot studio to house his furnace and his collection, and he has room to grow.

The furnace runs at 2,100° seven days a week, and they produce 50 to 75 pounds of glass a day. Joe’s work is a testament to keeping business and artistic craftsmanship local and thriving.

For further information on products and events at the studio (some are open to the public) such as an upcoming open house on December 6, visit Joe’s website, joecariati.com, and his Facebook page, facebook.com/141PennStudios.