David Gappa is a storyteller. His tools aren’t paper and pen, or even a computer keyboard. Gappa tells stories through his artistic glass creations.
“I love new, challenging projects where the client has a story line and brings me a blank canvas to reflect that story on,” Gappa says.
The artist works out of Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery— vetro is Italian for glass— which he launched in Grapevine in 1999. His glass creations are available there for purchase, and customers can step into an observation room to watch the glassblowers at work. They can also talk with the artist about commissioning larger, custom glass designs.
Gappa’s custom installations are responsible for about 60 percent of his business, including online, gallery and walk-ins. Two of his recent installations reflect his love for artistry combined with storytelling, a 1,500-pound glass display, titled Crystal Oasis, and an artistic expression of the sea, Sea Turtles.
Crystal Oasis was designed and created for Trinity Terrace, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Worth.
“The design of this piece was logo-driven,” Gappa says. “Their logo represents a flowing river. That was the tie-in. It was designed to represent the flow of life as a river and reflects the pathway to their final destination.”
Crystal Oasis has a mesmerizing, ethereal feel. It’s comprised of 225 crystal spheres and 275 frosted optic spheres, which are lit with LEDs. “It creates a beautiful depth,” Gappa says.
The project took about three months from concept to installation. One of the big challenges was hiding the hardware and making the piece feel light. The recently completed custom project Sea Turtles was installed in the home of a family of divers. “They wanted something to reflect some of their experiences,” Gappa says. “The install is on a wall in the client’s living room, about 15 feet above the finished floor.”
Three sea turtles of brown luster and iris gold, each measuring 36 inches wide and 28 inches long, hover over interlocking teal blue wave patterns. On the sea floor several black luster sea urchins reside.
For every project, Gappa and his team do a practice installation in a warehouse located on 27 acres on the north side of Fort Worth. The land, which is home to an old farmhouse, barns and warehouses, has been in his family for several years.
Gappa’s studio is set up to function as a turnkey operation, and all of its vendors are local. “We like to have our hands in every aspect of a project,” he says. His custom works range from about $10,000 to just under $1 million. Gappa discovered his love of art at an early age, delving into painting, sculpting, sketching and drawing, among other disciplines. He spent a year in Europe studying in those mediums, and he spent substantial time in Murano, Italy, studying the glass artisans.
His career, however, didn’t start in glass. He worked for 10 years as an architect after earning his degree from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). While there, Gappa took a semester of glassblowing, just for fun, and he was hooked. “I helped UTA establish their glassblowing program,” he says, “and I did glassblowing as a sideline.” Gappa worked as an architect by day and a glassblower at night for seven years. The defining moment that put him on a new career path came courtesy of his four children. “My eldest daughter asked my wife if she was going to see Daddy that week,” Gappa says. “That’s when I decided to make a change.” He resigned from architecture and chose a career in glassblowing.
Out of all of his custom works, one of his favorites is Introspection, which he created for the Center for Brain Health [featured in the Winter 2018 issue of Dallas Style & Design]. It’s a visible interpretation of the communication of nerves in the brain, with 175 LED-illuminated glass spheres and 1,050 handblown glass spheres programmed to pulsate slowly in an array of colors.
Whether it’s private commissions for a home or larger installations for corporate clients, Gappa is excited to share stories through the art of glass.
Glenda Vosburgh is a freelance writer, editor and author based in Dallas. She can be reached at glendavosburgh @gmail.com.