Crystal Clear

Columbus glassblower Robert Eickholt creates sparkling works of color and light.

The colors are dazzling: translucent swirls of hues reflecting a palette of sea and sky, sparkling with glints of precious metals that add a distinctive gleam.

For 40 years, Columbus glassblower Robert Eickholt has fashioned sculptures, vases and paperweights from the medium that serves as his creative muse.

“The properties of glass — the colors, the optics, the light refraction — have intrigued me since I was a youngster,” the 62-year-old explains. “And you never run out of ways you can experiment with glass to bring out its beauty.”

Through the years, his pieces have become coveted collector’s items, showcased at the Hawk Galleries in Columbus and the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

So, it’s no wonder that for the past 22 years, the Ohioana Library Association has commissioned Eickholt to create the one-of-a-kind paperweights presented to the Ohio authors honored each year by the organization. This year’s awards ceremony will take place in Columbus on October 14 at the Ohioana Library.

“Our mission is to promote Ohio authors and artists,” says Ohioana’s executive director Linda Hengst, “and we fell in love with Bob’s work the moment we saw it.

“Our award winners,” she adds, “appreciate his pieces not only for the recognition they symbolize, but also for the art that they are.”

As a teen, Eickholt never dreamed he’d be able to pursue his artistry full-time. Instead, he opted to earn bachelor of science degrees in business management and computer science from Miami University. Upon graduating in 1970, he landed a job as a systems analyst, spending his days troubleshooting glitches for the burgeoning software industry.

He was miserable.

“There was a contemporary glass movement going on in the early ’70s, which was exploding with fresh ideas and concepts similar to the music movement of the same period,” Eickholt explains. “I wanted to be a part of it.”

He quit his job and headed for Berkeley, California, to study glassblowing. Eickholt returned to Columbus five years later to visit friends, and decided home was where he wanted to be. After completing graduate classes in his craft at The Ohio State University and the Columbus College of Art and Design, Eickholt opened his own studio in 1978.

He hasn’t regretted a moment.

“There’s nothing like using glass as a vehicle for decoration,” the artist says.

Eickholt is proud of the relationship he’s formed with the Ohioana Library Association.

“The most powerful tool we have is communication,” he muses. “And literature is an incredibly powerful instrument that we all need and use to get through life.

“Ohioana,” Eickholt adds, “is committed to recognizing that.”