Ranging from the absurd to the edgy and aggressive, Joshua Opdenaker’s glass reflects his never-ending struggle for perfection in theory and execution. His art is not expressed solely through the finished piece, but rather the physical dance of creating it. Innovative techniques and concepts inspire contemplation via ever-changing themes, making JOP! glass impossible to classify and leaving it in a class of its own.
Born in Philadelphia, Opdenaker graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA focus on stone carving in 2002. After years of carving stone, he began lampworking borosilicate glass in 2001 on the recommendation of his friend JAG. Flameworking became his technique of choice for sculpting, and the artist turned his focus to making glass pipes. While still an outlaw art form, the methods and creation were kept secret and not often spoken about in public places. Thus, he took on the moniker “JOP!” derived from an arrangement of his full name. In 2003, Opdenaker teamed up with Philadelphia Glass Works and became their permanent resident artist.
After establishing his studio in Philly’s Fishtown, JOP! joined forces with Elbo in 2014 to open Front Street Gallery in Kensington, Philadelphia. The gallery endeavored to bring the city’s most influential, beloved glass artists into the limelight allowing fans and collectors to admire and purchase their newest work. It was essentially a who’s-who of modern flameworking, featuring Philly artists like Zach Puchowitz, Snic Barnes, Marble Slinger (of Degenerate Art fame), Just Another Glassblower, and more. Front Street Gallery helped put Philadelphia on the map as a destination for the ever-growing glassblowing movement.
Invited to judge the 2019 European Flame Off in London, Opdenaker has exhibited his own pipes around the world, often blurring the line between pipes and sculpture. In 2008, represented by Silica Gallery, JOP glass was exhibited at SOFA, The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design fair.He creates in a broad range of styles to include his highly recognizable chicken rigs, medical series, giant cassette tapes, and his piece de resistance – The Baby Mecha Ganesh – a three-foot-tall, smokable baby with six arms.
Opdenaker states: “If nothing else, view my work as original. Technique and craft can be learned, originality cannot. You either have it, or you do not.”
The first in Philly’s Fishtown area to make a name for himself in the field, today there are at least five glass studios and 18 glassblowers on Opdenaker’s street alone. From group builds such as those of the Molten Art Classic to individual skill-building works such as goblets, JOP! glass’ pioneering spirit continues evolving with the scene.