He sits at a large table that serves as his work station in a small studio tucked under Duluth's old police station on East Superior Street. It's a work table that is distressed and worn from many hours of honing his craft. Rods of multicolored glass reach up like bare branches from holders made of wood blocks on one corner. A large magnifying glass is suspended before his torch. This is where the new tap handles you see at Fitger's Brewhouse were made.
Jes Durfee practices the centuries-old art of glass manipulation known as lampworking. He looks like an artist in all the best ways--eyes wide and passionate when it comes to talking about what he does, the words coming out in staccato cadence, occasionally tripping over themselves in his energetic desire to explain the how and when and why. It's curiously fascinating. A fire source heats raw color and clear glass enough to fuse them together while still sharing and moving the glass. Jes use gravity, centrifugal force and simple hand tools moving, shaping and sculpting the raw glass into beautifully finished glass objects.
A night under low-lights in The Barrel Room with our head brewer, Alex Chocholousek, gave inspiration for our first tap handles from Jes. They both thought about colors that would pop the most. Gold and ruby tones inspired one of the handle that encapsulates a whole sun calendar design. Once Jes envisioned the colors, it was back to his studio to get started on these amazing pieces of useful art. JTA marketing director, Jodie Cowan, and PR manager Dennis Kempton visited Durfee in his studio to see the artist in action and to find out how it all started.
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We asked Jes if he ever wanted to get into teaching others his art and technique. He insists that he wouldn't make a great teacher, but, later, he encouraged Jodie to take a seat and give it a try.
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In addition to featuring Jes's specially commissioned tap handles at the Brewhouse and at The Barrel Room, you can also see the distinctive Russian-inspired onion dome designed tap handles down at Burrito Union. We love supporting the craftsmanship of local artisans in our restaurants. For a limited time, we have Jes Durfee's tap handles available for purchase in Fitger's Brewhouse Beer Store down in the Fitger's Brewery Complex at 600 East Superior Street. Take a look at these exquisitely detailed pieces and grab a few for your favorite home brewer!