Scott Kempton is anything but the black sheep of his family. In fact, his studio, Blacksheep Glass, is very much a family affair. “I like that aspect,” Kempton says, referring to his parents, David and Gail, who handle the company’s ordering and shipping. “Dad ran businesses for years, and he really takes the pressure off me.”
Kempton grew up in San Diego and focused on graphic arts and ceramics in high school. As a student at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, he tried a number of majors, from photography to marine biology, before signing up for glassblowing. Following four semesters of course work, he heard from a friend that Leslie Wilton, an artist in Escondido, was looking for an apprentice.
As one of the first female glassblowers, Wilton had felt like such an outcast when she started her business 21 years ago that she named her studio Blacksheep Glass. Kempton worked as Wilton’s assistant for eight years, then bought the business when she retired in February 2001. The two have remained close, and Wilton now blows glass with Kempton in his state-of-the-art studio.
Although classically trained Kempton loves to experiment with new designs and combines a variety of techniques in his work. He looks to the beaches and southern California landscape for inspiration, which is evident in pieces such as his “Coral Reef” and “Aquarium” paperweights and “Bird of Paradise” perfume bottles.
At least once a month, Kempton gets together with other artists to experiment. “I’m very control-orientated when I work,” he says. In his early work, he struggled to get good shapes. “Now I’m really dedicated to tight clean lines.”
Every year, Kempton adds new items and colors to his line of vases, drinking glasses, paperweights, perfume bottles, oil lamps, and ornaments. He came up with the design for his red-white-and-blue paperweight when he noticed the natural drape of the flag over President Bush’s shoulder during a speech on television.
As for the future, he says. “My goal is to continually raise the quality and scale of my work, to get larger and more extravagant.”
You can reach Scott Kempton at his San Diego studio at 858-453-8642, or online at www.blacksheepglass.com