The world lost a guiding light this past summer, when charismatic glass artist Chris Juedemann passed away two weeks before his 50th birthday. Jon Green, who lives in Tokyo and represented Juedemann’s work worldwide, says, “Chris will live on and serve as an inspiration to artists, collectors, and enthusiasts for thousands of years to come.”
Juedemann specialized in a technique called murrine, which dates back to the ancient Phoenicians. He created small, meticulously detailed portraits from strings of colored glass thin as pencil lead — stacking them together in a cylindrical or spherical form to build a complex pointillism image. He’d fire the form in a kiln to fuse the glass and stretch it longer while still molten. Once hardened, it could be sliced like cookie dough, and each coin-shaped slice bore the full portraiture design. Juedemann made the genre his own by capturing the likenesses of historical figures, musicians, and pop-culture icons.
He started doing stained glass in his late teens, and in 2000, he and his wife Lissa started teaching themselves the intricate process of murrine by reading books, looking at pictures, and experimenting. “We had zero experience with it,” she recalls, “but I sold my business [the Chocolate Fetish], he quit his job at the phone company, we bought some tools, and we just went for it.” In 2001 they moved to Hendersonville and opened Glass Kitchen Studio in their home.
Back then, Juedemann was one of only a few accomplished murrine artists active in the world. The form subsequently exploded in popularity — but most artists use less challenging hard borosilicate glass, whereas Juedemann exclusively used soft glass, which enabled him to achieve more vivid colors.
Despite the elevated nature of his work, he kept a low profile on the local arts scene, and his major collectors, such as Green and Hermann Pedrotti of Switzerland, were international.
On a personal level, though, his spirit was huge. Green says, “I think it’s important that people understand his art in the context of his life and who he was to those around him. He was a bright light, full of energy, always looking to learn and always willing to teach. Those he loved, he loved deeply. In the end, his greatest art was the way he inspired those in his life.” Chris and Lissa’s daughter, Ari, graduated Salutatorian from SILSA in Asheville this year and is now studying art restoration in Greece.
Juedemann’s murrine art is included in the prestigious permanent collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, and Yuri Federman, owner of Level 42 Gallery in Asheville, regards his work in a realm beyond elite. “Where it was once collectable and nearly priceless, it is now irreplaceable, because there will never be any more created.” Level 42 had planned for Juedemann to teach a murrine class at its studio in October of 2023, but the artist took his life on June 30.
“I miss Chris so much,” says Federman. “He had so much knowledge, shared it with an energy purer than the sun, and was a true gem of a human being.”
Interested collectors can check the Facebook groups “Millefiori Artists, Collector and ADDICTs Group (MACA)” and “Glass Kitchen: The Juedemann Collectors Group.”