Visitors to the Reflections on Glass exhibit at the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida, will be mesmerized by the spectacular work of world-renowned glass artist, Hans Godo Frabel.
At the entrance, visitors are greeted by the ‘Cavorting Clown’ fountain, with its frolicking milky white clowns on an eight-foot tall spiral fountain. It is a series of clown glass sculptures that brought Frabel international fame when they were used in Absolut Vodka ads in the late 1980s and 1990s. On the other side of the walkway are the ‘Jesters on a Branch,’ whimsical sprite-like transparent figures.
This is just the start of the journey into a world transformed by Hans Godo Frabel’s reflective flamework glass sculptures. He earned the title ‘Father of Flamework’ due to his unique and breathtaking creative skills with blowing glass by hand.
Intense heat from flames as hot as 3,500°F softens the glass and allows Frabel to use blown air and various tools to form the shapes at the botanical garden. For his botanical pieces, Frabel uses borosilicate glass, which is resistant to thermal shock and, due to its durability, is the best choice for hand forming with a blowtorch. Borosilicate glass was developed in Germany in the late 19th century to create test tubes and beakers. Frabel first learned how to use borosilicate glass in 1965, when he moved to the United States and apprenticed with a scientific glass-blowing laboratory. His glass pieces create an optical illusion making you think the glass has a whitish tint. But these same opaque pieces were to be wet they would look transparent.
At the Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden there is also an imposing scene of a ‘Large Cube With Imploding Glass Spheres’. It is an eight-foot by eight-foot structure weighing about 900 pounds, mounted at the edge of a small lagoon.
Fancy, elongated milky-white figures called the ‘Longfellows,’ created by Frabel, can be found all over the gardens, perched atop glass tubes, seemingly holding court or just being playful. Frabel’s alien-like creations are also displayed at the Water Garden with their ‘Balancing Act’ on different coloured glass spheres.
Delicate lattice bowls seem to float downstream at the Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden, looking very much a part of the natural setting.
The ‘Longfellow Gravity,’ consisting of three large tumbling cubes, is found at the Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Brazilian Garden, and serves as a playground for the Longfellows.
The brilliance of Frabel’s glass craftsmanship takes botanical experience to a world intertwined with visiting alien-like beings. Frabel, an avid gardener and ecologist, has always made his passion for nature an important facet of his creations.