by Patrick Ogle
But when he first went into art school glass was not on his mind.
“I went to art school in Philadelphia in the 60s started in 64, Philadelphia College of Art. I got interested in glass when the college was given a grant to build a glass studio. They asked me to make it so I made the studio without really knowing what I was going to do,” he says. “That s what got me interested in the material. I was making films at the time. And I was also doing illustration and making things from clay and metal so I had classes in various media.”
Even though he found glass very intriguing he had no real instruction in the glass. Even his instructor was no expert.
“The ceramics instructor who told me how to build the furnace and rest of the shop, he didn’t know either. It was all experimental for him,” says Dailey. “He had one class and then he became the person who administered this grant the college was given. So it was an interesting time and very exciting to try this new material and be able to do something with it.”
This first studio was not exactly state of the art.
“It was a terrible studio. It was out in the parking lot in an old incinerator room. You had to pull the bench out into the parking lot and sit there in the parking lot,” he says. “Open up to doors and prop a piece of metal on top of there so the snow wouldn’t fall on your head. Everyone got sick in February.”
When asked if there were any “spectacular failures” because of the lack of knowledge he pauses and says, “I wouldn’t have called them spectacular. They were kind of miserable”
This was fortuitous as he became the first grad student of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly.
“He became a friend-is still a good friend. I just saw him at his opening in Boston. It was a great thing.” says Dailey.
This is the point where Dailey became more focused. He stopped working in any medium aside from glass--excepting some illustration classes. And for Dailey illustrations lead to and inform his glass work.
“I am kind of an imagist. Everything I make is subjective, even the pieces that are more like decorative art, like these bird sconces, which are functional objects and they have strong links to Art Deco or Ancient Egypt if you kind of boil down the imagery,” he says. “But my heroes are people like René Lalique, somebody from that era where design and function were merged in a way that is deliberately beautiful and with a really strong respect for materials and materials combination to make things elegant. So that quality of making things and the use of materials and even the geometric stylization of forms is all coming from a strong design tradition in Art Deco, Art Noveau.”
One of the pieces, the one next to him in the top photo, had to be made five times. The white collar on the figure just wouldn’t come out right. After so many years working in glass he says he can mostly get it to do what he wants.
But ultimately, the glass still wins. It is the boss.