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Last year at Salon Art + Design in New York, a series of unique pieces in glass, presented by Jeff Lincoln, caught our eye. The white, crystalline sculptures appeared both jagged and delicate, calling to mind sea foam or a bank of snow after a day of rain. Entitled Brutal Matter, they almost glowed from within. We learned they were made by John Pomp, a Philadelphia-based
Pomp moved to Philadelphia about a decade ago after success in New York making tabletop objects and lighting in glass. He and his wife bought two buildings (the first in 2009, the second in 2012) next to each other in the Fishtown neighborhood. Together with one other employee, they set to work on developing a manufacturing business that grew to include production in metal, glass, wood, and leather. Due to the demand for Pomp’s furniture, lighting, and accessories, the studio has outgrown its current space. This fall, they’ll move to a 100,000-square-foot facility in Port Richmond they’ve been working on renovating for over a year.
Over much of the past ten years, Pomp focused on building his business, team, tools, and scaling the company, which now employs 45 people full time. When we visited his studio on Mascher Street last spring, he was ready to devote more of his time to creating unique works, like Brutal Matter.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about Brutal Matter. What was the inspiration?
JOHN POMP: I’m passionate about the ocean and have become an avid surfer. And through the years of all the business focus here, a lot of my creative outlet has been in the water and finding my love for the ocean. It’s funny because surfing is the closest thing I’ve ever done to glassblowing.
The commonalities are that they’re both fluids, they require timing, and they have a nature of their own. They respond to gravity and the elements, and so both have a lot of constraints. Molten glass wants to fall on the floor, you have to move with it and you’re constantly interacting with it during the whole process, and it has a lot of rules. Surfing is the same.
I’ve spent a lot of time on jagged rock coasts, and I’m always seeing rocks and water—thinking about the fluid state of lava to stone and the fluid state of the ocean. It’s about this these in-between states. That’s what inspired that that series of work.
WW: Do you see the beauty and unpredictability of nature as related to the process of glassblowing?
JP: It totally is. The fluid glass is really pretty, but then that crystalline rock jagged structure is also really dangerous. The glass speaks to the duality of the earth and the water. You see these jagged shards of glass, but then you also see it’s all smooth and fluid. It’s an exploration of those things.
WW: So do you see yourself further exploring these kinds of unique art pieces?
JP: Yeah, we absolutely are. I’m at a place now where I’m allowing myself to be free and to be experimental. To have fun and be very expressive with my love, passion, and interests.
I’m also working on a couple other concepts and bodies that are related in different ways in the landscape topography. Everything is really informed by the living world.
WW: How are you able to divide your time day to day?
JP: That’s a really good question. I’ve been talking to myself every day about that, too. Honestly, I don’t have my balance yet.
I think like any kind of CEO or business owner of this size company; you’re just getting pulled into fires. There’s not a whole lot of scheduling. I’m trying to structure my time better, so I get time in the studio. I also do product development, so I’m down in the studio blowing glass.
WW: Tell us about the new space you’re moving into this fall.
JP: It’s an old building from the 1960s, and we’re doing a full renovation on it. I’m going to have a 6,000-square-foot art studio, and also I’m going to start putting in capabilities to start doing ceramic work and foundry work.
WW: Has anything thus far trickled into the production side?
JP: It absolutely has been informing us. [This new work] has kind of rejuvenated me and my practice and given us a new art direction.
A lot of the older pieces we made were really more about craftsmanship and right angles and very masculine. My newer collections are more feminine and soft. Before, that craftsmanship was really critical because I prided myself on being a glassblower, and I was also building this manufacturing company. It was all about control and it was about technical acumen. And now I’ve proven and built and assembled a team, and we can make anything we want to make.
Now it is about the creativity; it is about the art.