Peter Hazel: An Artist’s Life in Full Bloom

“I’m excited. Let’s have a party!” Peter Hazel bursts into the room where a few of his crew members are having a serious discussion regarding their upcoming fundraising events for their honorarium piece, Bloom.

Peter is the kind of guy with a permanent beaming smile and real joy swirling around him. His crew describe him as relentlessly positive. He’s always pushing what is possible: a little bigger, a little more. He has one goal for his team: “Have fun.” He wants his work to be a labor of passion and love surrounded by jokes and happiness. If you stress, you go home.

And that labor of love is a 40-foot-tall jellyfish, which will be covered in 2,000 handmade glass mini-jellyfish to form a 30-foot-wide jelly bloom.

The Outsider Artist

Peter worked as a granite and tile contractor for 35 years. He never had anything to do with art, never took a single art class, but people often ask, “What art school have you gone to?”

“Construction guys don’t get enough credit,” says Peter, who wants people to recognize the “outsider artist” — the one with zero background in the arts.

Peter’s first Burning Man art installation, Daffodil, 2014

But Peter’s background working in tiles was the perfect segue to his work as a sculptor. “We all do it because we can’t not do it,” he says.

Six years ago Peter went to Barcelona, where he was inspired by the creations of famous Spanish architect Gaudi. And that experience shifted his life path forever.

After returning from Spain, Peter started creating a plethora of tile and glass sculptures. Initially his kids thought their dad had lost it, but this never deterred Peter. His obsession and passion drove him to create gigantic trouts, larger-than-life daffodils, a massive manta ray and his spectacular work for last year’s Burning Man, Octavius, a 25,000-pound octopus covered in thousands of handmade tiles.

This photo of Peter Hazel’s sculpture Octavius, taken by Alina Rudya, won the Smithsonian photo contest for the Mobile category

Taking a Leap

Now Peter has made an even bigger leap, one he says is “scary as hell”. He’s quit his job to become a full-time artist, and he has thrown himself fully into his newest work, Bloom.

(Rendering by Scott Turek)

The process takes recycled defective glass that the crew smashes up and fuses together to make discs. Each piece is fired in the kiln twice: once to make the disc and then back into the kiln to slump and make the final jelly form. It will take eight kilns running 24 hours a day, seven days a week until Burning Man to create all of the glass for this project.

“Glass is just incredible, and how fitting is it — a glass jellyfish?” says Peter.

K2 engineering helped the team design the internal, interactive steel structure for the enormous jellyfish, which will be covered in 1,400 lineal feet of LEDS to create a beautiful glowing effect.

Participants will be able to crawl through the tentacles and climb the stairs to the first steel platform inside the jellyfish. From there, they can continue to the interior of the jelly head, which will have a massive platform with a grid flooring so thrill-seekers can peer down 40-foot drop to the playa below.

Peter and some of the glass jellyfish
Jellyfish nested in the bloom

Helping Out

The project is still seeking volunteers. If you live in the Reno area, and you’d like to join a great, low-key crew focused on fun, visit the Peter Hazel Facebook page and send them a message. They’re a small, dedicated team and, as they say, ”We’re here for the art.”

Their philosophy is that people can do whatever they want while volunteering on the project, and there’s many areas where you can learn and grow: from metal fabrication and glass work to making small clay jellyfish medallions that they plan to gift on the playa.

Bloom currently has a crowd-funding campaign, and they need to raise a minimum of $25,000 to complete their project. Check out their video and see the blazing smile of this very enthusiastic construction-guy-turned-artist.

About the author: Jessi Sprocket

Jessi Sprocket

Jessi Sprocket is a founding member of Raised By Wolves and the editor-in-chief of Burn After Reading Magazine. She also dabbles in large scale metal sculpture and is currently a resident artist at Reno Art Works. Originally hailing from the East Coast, Sprocket made her first pilgrimage via car from Philly to BRC in 2010. Since then she's been pulled closer and closer to the Black Rock Desert and currently resides in the weird magic that is Reno.

2 Comments on “Peter Hazel: An Artist’s Life in Full Bloom

  • Neal Milch says:

    I was so blown away by Octavius that I contacted Peter after the Burn to discuss creating a work for a construction project in New York. My idea was to make some large glass jellyfish! Amazingly that’s exactly what Peter was creating for Burning Man. Talk about synchronicity! Peter is a terrific artist and a pleasure to work with.

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  • Linda Mendelsohn says:

    As a designer in Los Angeles , I had the privilege of installing a gorgeous Peter Hazel dragonfly in Malibu. My client has since commissioned another piece , huge Manta Reys !!
    He is gifted and delightful and I can’t wait to see him on the Playa this year !!
    Till then…
    Linda Mendelsohn “Lindica “

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