City Sketch: Patrick Mullen

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Glass artist Patrick Mullen knew it was time to switch from production work to one-of-a-kind pieces once he did the math. At the height of his tenure at one San Francisco studio, he was turning out 150 pieces of high-end barware a day. “When I realized I was making 20,000 [cordial cups] a year, it sort of ate at my soul after awhile,” he says.
     Mullen moved to Sacramento in 1995 to open his own studio where he again worked in production, with a catalog of 60 items that ranged from perfume bottles to oil lamps. Five years ago, he switched exclusively to glass art and teaching. He works from a warehouse in West Sacramento, his graceful and colorful finished pieces—executed in the Venetian style of blown glass—a striking contrast to the industrial backdrop of tools and furnaces.
     Design With Fire Glass Studios, which Mullen shares with artist Linnea Wong, also houses a makeshift gallery of the duo’s works. Mullen has been focusing recently on the Chinese symbols of yin and yang, fusing a single circular object with a trio of separate blowpipes. The finished pieces, which fetch up to $1,500 apiece, are displayed either as sculpture or as wall-mounted art.
     Mullen says he loves the technical challenges of heat, weight and gravity almost as much as the immediacy of his work. “You can’t put it down, whether the piece takes 20 minutes or four hours,” he explains. “Once you start it, you’re committed to it.”
     Mullen’s work can be seen at Fire & Rain Gallery in El Dorado Hills and The Artery in Davis. For more information on Mullen’s own studio and class schedule, go to designwithfire.com.