Blazing colors and fluid motion are at play in the luminous blown-glass artwork of Oregon-based artist Andy Nichols. With stunning abstract patterns and color, he creates striking trout and salmon, his artistic interpretation of Oregon’s coastal fish on their spawning journey. His magnificent clusters of sea creatures, brimming with shells and starfish, are complex, radiant art ecosystems that take one’s breath away.
“Molten glass awaits shaping and evolution,” Nichols says in a video about his work titled Andy Nichols Glass Fish. “Ideas are born and the creative process begins.”
Lucky for Overleaf Lodge & Spa visitors, some of Nichols’ pieces are on display and for sale inside the gift shop and in the lobby, where guests can marvel at Nichols’ vivid salmon installed on the wall. They appear to be working their way up delicate strands of kelp, the kind of kelp so often strewn on Yachats beaches. These fish are active, not static, thanks to the curves and dynamic expressions Nichols has formed.
Nearby, one of Nichols’ groupings of sea creatures gleams with a fiery presence. Shells in many patterned colors—orange, yellow, red, green—are assembled into an intricate, delicate balance. It’s hard to pull your gaze away!
Single fish are placed throughout the lobby, too, where guests won’t want to miss seeing the incredible detail in Nichols’ works—that no two of them are alike is by design. One has to wonder: How does he do it?
Nichols took a leap of artistic faith when he ended a 20-year career in the restaurant business to open a professional glass studio, Nichols Art Glass, in The Dalles, Oregon. Self-taught, even building his own equipment, he was drawn to the way glass sparked his imagination. Nature is his inspiration, especially that of the Columbia River Gorge region. The life cycle of spawning salmon and trout, in particular, really focused his vision.
It took a few tries to figure out the right balance between interpretation and realism, Nichols notes, but he quickly discovered that there was no limit to what could be done with colors, patterns and form.
After blowing the fish body out of molten glass, Nichols uses powders, frit (a ceramic composition) and sheet glass to intensify colors and add details, such as fins, to the fish. Heating the glass, Nichols creates movement in each fish by shaping its mouth, curling its lips and curving its fins. “The tail fin is my favorite,” he admits.
Each year, when the fall spawning is underway, Nichols creates a limited edition of sockeye salmon for what he calls “the fall run.” Transforming the vibrancy of these salmon, in all the glory of their colors, into unforgettable glasswork continues to be a constant in Nichols’ work.
“I have big dreams. Where I can take this art form.”
Visitors to Overleaf Lodge & Spa should not miss the chance to see Nichols’ vibrant works up close inside the hotel the lobby and gift shop.