Asp & Hand is a glass design and production house creating handmade vessels, objects and custom forms in the Pacific Northwest. The house was founded in November 2017 by married couple Blair and Eli Hansen. Eli trained in the Seattle area for ten years, working for such esteemed glass artists as Dale Chihuly and Sonja Blomdahl before moving to New York State with Blair to pursue his own art career, which he continues to this day, as well as to start their family. Blair, meanwhile, spent fifteen years working at galleries, including Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth, as well as overseeing the archive of the Dash Snow Estate and the art studio of Dan Colen. In 2017, the duo moved back to Eli’s native Northwest with the idea to put art into our simplest, everyday rituals.
The Pacific Northwest is, inarguably, the capital of contemporary American glass art, thanks largely to Dale Chihuly, Richard Marquis and Benjamin Moore, whose dedication to glass brought them to the island of Murano in the late 1960s. Chihuly convinced two great Venetian maestros to return with him to the States, where the secrets of Italy’s unsurpassed glass craft were finally shared with an eager generation of American artists. We work with some of the most talented glass craftspeople in the world, with whom we share strong histories. Eli leads our production team in the glass shop, and Blair leads the design process.Because we come to design via fine art, we see ordinary objects as opportunities for functional sculpture. We want to encourage consideration and a general slowing of the pace of life. Inspired by kitschy American hobnail glass, medieval Bohemian beer hall prunts, Modern Italian form and the psychologically-charged elegance of Surrealism, Asp & Hand glass objects are uncanny, tactile, and intended for frequent use. The added “bits,” as we call them, on the outsides of the glassware borrow the utilitarian anti-slip grip of 14th century steins and bring increased awareness to the places where your body meets the vessel.
The earliest glass artifacts date back to Egypt and Mesopotamia ca. 3500 B.C. To honor this ancient material, we named our company after the asp snake, whose deadly venom and incarnate skin-shedding powers of ‘rebirth’ granted it holy status in the time of the Pharaohs. As with the asp, danger and veneration are intrinsic to glass; we form it using hand tools yet can never touch it, since it must be molten at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit as we work. The name Asp & Hand joins warm, human touch with cool, lubricious reptilian form.
What are “BITS?”
The word “bit” (or “prunt”) is a glassblowing term for a small amount of glass that is added to a larger form. The droplet-like additions on the sides of many of our objects are rooted in glass from antiquity. 14th Century Bohemian beer steins, for example, often had bits along the sides to help hands, greasy from medieval meals, grip the glass. In addition to offering traction, these tactile surfaces bring excitement to the fingertips; our kids love using glasses with bits, and so do their parents and grandparents!
Almost all of the world's drinkware today is machine-made. We preserve the tradition of hand-blown glassware because we believe the difference in experience is remarkable; your hands can tell that our hands made these objects. Something we use every day to nourish our bodies deserves to be special! Eli leads our team to make every ASP & HAND object in the hot shop here in Washington State. We start by blowing a bubble of hot glass into a mold to make the initial cup-shape, and then we use metal and wood tooling to open the bubble, refine its form, apply any bits, and stamp the glass before annealing it.
Where does the name “Asp & Hand” come from?
The earliest glass artifacts date back to Egypt and Mesopotamia ca. 3500 B.C. To honor this ancient material, we named our company after the asp snake, whose deadly venom and incarnate skin-shedding powers of ‘rebirth’ granted it holy status in the time of the Pharaohs. As with the asp, danger and veneration are intrinsic to glass; we form it using hand tools yet can never touch it, since it must be molten at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit as we work. We love the idea that there is an aspect of danger in something so beautiful - it reminds us to give great respect to the art form.