Is glass experiencing a renaissance in 2022? With the UN-designated Year of Glass well underway, the hit Netflix show Blown Away bringing glassblowing to the masses, and glass design being celebrated from Design Miami to the Venice Biennale, glass is undoubtedly in the spotlight. And along for the ride is glass artist Cedric Mitchell (@cedricmitchelldesign).
Mitchell is a fresh, friendly, earnest, and talented new voice in the glassblowing world, all qualities that Nike recognized when they made him one of the faces for the rollout of their 2022 Air Max campaign, but more on that later. A Los Angeles-based artist from Oklahoma, Mitchell discovered glass as an art form while studying business at Tulsa Community College. He was so enamored by glass, he immediately enrolled in classes. Inspired by an eccentric mix of Hip Hop, Graffiti Art, Pop Culture, and Memphis Design, Mitchell now creates work that ranges from functional to decorative, combining simplicity in design with bold colors to craft hand-blown vessels and sculptures.
In March 2022, Mitchell visited The Corning Museum of Glass as a Guest Artist, utilizing his time and the skills of our Hot Glass Team to develop large-scale totems in the Memphis Design style. Taking its name from a Bob Dylan song, Memphis Design is a style movement that began in 1981 with a group of designers in Milan, Italy, not Tennessee as you might think. It represented a rejection of the mid-century modern and minimalist styles that preceded it, instead drawing inspiration from Art Deco, Pop Art, and 1950s kitsch. Memphis Design is defined by bright, bold colors, clashing patterns, simple geometric shapes, and playful squiggles. Although initially a commercial failure, Memphis Design gained a cult following and several high-profile collectors including David Bowie and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. A resurgence in popularity early in the 21st Century has brought Memphis Design back into the mainstream consciousness and Mitchell is contributing to that revival. Perhaps Mitchell finds parallels between Memphis Design and hip-hop music. Both turned away from the prevailing culture to forge something new that could be inventive, daring, and audacious, but still maintain a sense of humility and fun.
Mitchell’s burgeoning reputation as a Black artist in a predominantly white industry and his drive to succeed make him a perfect collaborator for Nike who marked the 35th anniversary of their Air Max sneaker earlier this year. Every March 26, Nike celebrates Air Max Day with the release of a new design and, in 2022, partnered with a group of up-and-coming thinkers, innovators, and creators for a bold new direction.
Nike has always seen itself as a trendsetter and is now embracing diversity like never before. Nike rewards imagination, calling itself a place to “explore potential, obliterate boundaries, and push out the edges” of what can be achieved. The company partners with people who can “grow, think, dream, and create,” while seeking “achievers, leaders, and visionaries.” Cedric Mitchell may not be an athlete, but in him, Nike recognizes the talent, resilience, creativity, physicality, and skill that glassblowing requires.
Since its inception in 1987, the Air Max has become a cultural icon, adored for its revolutionary use of a visible midsole air bubble. The bubble, of course, is also at the heart of glassblowing, perhaps not something lost on Mitchell or the marketing execs at Nike. With Mitchell as an “Air Muse,” the synergy is palpable and the marketing potential endless.
This versatility and desire to collaborate have put Mitchell on a path to success. This was evident during his stay in Corning when Mitchell had the opportunity to work with The Studio’s Artist-in-Residence, Dan Friday, a member of the Lummi Nation and Blown Away Season 3 contestant. Blending Mitchell’s Memphis Design style with Friday’s Indigenous iconography, the pair sculpted a beautiful abstract female form with a hawk perched on one shoulder.
Mitchell’s relationship with the Museum has since continued. Several of his works are available in The Shops, including his Memphis Design sculptures and a unique line of glassware.
What all this publicity will do for Cedric Mitchell remains to be seen, but as the world takes greater notice of glass and its potential, one thing is clear, Mitchell is at the forefront, pushing boundaries while at the same time recognizing and honoring the pioneers that came before him. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a glassblower.