The Rainbow Blower

The fine art of blowing glass

"It was like a lightning bolt going off in my mind," explained Peter Reuthlinger, recalling how he was inspired to make his art glass hummingbird feeders.

While sitting in his back yard in California in the late 1970s, the young Bavarian, surrounded by vibrant hummingbirds, was seemingly appalled by the contrast of these lovely birds to the hideous pop bottle feeders he had hanging about. At that time it was not common to find feeders in stores.

blown glass reuthlinger

Reuthlinger immediately enrolled in two local colleges to begin his education in the art of glass blowing. The next year he attended the renowned Pilchuck Institute of Art glass in Washington, studying under the tutelage of Dale Chihuly, widely recognized as the guru of glass blowing. Though Reuthlinger is inspired by many artists, Chihuly reigns sovereign as his primary influence.

" I am not so concerned with form as I am with color," says Reuthlinger, whose swirls of tangerines, lemons, golds, ruby red, and cobalt blue enchant each viewer of his pear-shaped glass hummingbird feeders. "I am motivated by the arrangement of color in nature." Various bits of colored glass, imported from Germany, are laid out in ordered fashion on one side of Peter's workspace. Fondly referring to himself as the Rainbow Blower, Reuthlinger can be found most of the time in his immaculate studio, blow pipe in hand, shaping orbs of unimaginable color.

Gingerly and almost whimsically he rolls the glob of newly melted clear glass across the first box of color. The process continues, carefully balancing the amount of heat with the amount of breaths employed. The fluidity of Reuthlinger's movements resemble that of a dance, with all the components of a good samba; tempo, passion and heat.

Passion for discovery ignited Reuthlinger's explorer spirit early in life. He has traveled most of the continents, sailed the South Pacific and in 1998 spent four and a half months traveling by camel with a salt caravan in the Sahara Desert.

An artisan of many disciplines, Reuthlinger started in the culinary arts with a bar called Le Bistro and a restaurant called Der Postwagen, The Mail Wagon. Though under new ownership, both can still be visited in Ingolstadt, Germany. Relocating to California in 1974, Reuthlinger started out braiding leather leashes, leading to the crafting of robust leather bags and eventually shoes. He spent 18 years traveling to art shows throughout the county to sell his wares.

Reuthlinger started a bed and breakfast in Hamilton, Montana, but now lives in St. Ignatius, where he and his wife, Carylon, have renovated the old Hillside Schoolhouse into their home and studios.

Though content to wake up under the Mission Mountains, the Reuthlingers take time each year to follow their feathered friends each winter to Mexico. "My feeders have a hard time competing with the brilliance of bougainvilleas and passion flowers ... for the moment," he says.

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