David W. Levi | Bird Jar
David W. Levi

born 1959
Resides in Seattle, Washington

Biography          Statement          Ask the Artist
David Levi received his BFA from Washington University, St Louis in 1983. He trained extensively in Europe and the United States, and counts among his mentors master glassblowers Jan-Erik Ritzman of Sweden, and Line Tagliapietra, from Murano, Italy.

His work is exhibited internationally, and has earned him, among other awards, a National Endowment for the Arts grant. His pieces are included in the collections of the American Crafts Museum, New York City; the Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York. David lives with his wife and two children on Whidbey Island, Washington, where he owns and operates IBEX Glass Studio, a glass design and production facility.


I think my work is positive as opposed to angst-ridden. Toy-like, candy-like. My goal is to create things that seem obvious without being clichés.

Ask the Artist

One piece of yours in the Collection is a collaboration with Dimitri Michaelides, and another is a solo effort. Is there a big difference for you between creating by yourself, and sharing authorship with someone else?

When you work by yourself there's less external compromise. In the best of all worlds, the major benefit of collaboration is the editing process. The ideas get refined. You end up not with what you've imagined in the heat of the moment, but what's favored most by all of those involved. Often, especially over time, this can make the ideas even stronger.

Working by yourself, you stick more closely to the intent of your original vision.

Do you use computers much in your work, and are you interested in expanding your knowledge of them?

My brother is a computer analyst in Washington DC. I just recently bought an issue of Wired magazine and it opened my eyes to some of the interesting things that are going on now. But I don't have a computer at home and I'm terrified of buttons. I guess I'm waiting until it gets easier; when you can turn on the computer and it will do what you want it to do without needing to know very much about it. I know there will come a time when not having a computer will become a real disadvantage in life, and then I know I'll need to get one. I've never really even seen the Internet.

Does your Bird Jar tell a specific story?

I find it easier to talk around that kind of question, instead of answering it directly. I know I always have a reason for making something, but if I put it into words it couldn't really be accurate. Ideas just happen and you go with them. That being said, birds are a strong metaphor, a symbol for everyone. Everyone responds to them. People project onto them their own feelings.

I think my work is positive as opposed to angst-ridden. Toy-like, candy-like. My goal is to create things that seem obvious without being clichés. Let me say a little more about the bird idea-- People always ask me what my work means, and it brings up this point for me about the process. I think that as an artist living right now making things right now, I'm living at a unique time in history. I have a complete overview of the historical record. I can look at images in magazines, encyclopedias, all sorts of books and resources. I have the ability as an artist to situate myself in any culture. I can see the hem structure of a Roman toga just as easily as an African tribal artifact. In a sense, that separates me from my own culture--from the people who live down the street. On the other hand, I have the opportunity to pick and choose what I want to use in my work.

There's a story about when Van Gogh received some little gift--I don't remember what it was--and it was wrapped in paper that was decorated with a Japanese print. He was influenced by that style from then on. It was just a little window of access. Today, I can see stuff any time I want from anywhere.

In some ways that's a wonderful tool. In some ways, it's confusing. Because I'm not working within a culture of consistent values. If I get my ideas from tribal artists, their values don't necessarily come along. Back to birds-- When I make them, they're not just things we look at, they have a perspective of their own, surveying the world from their perch on this piece of art.

Po Shun Leong Mark Lindquist