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Toots Zynsky: Threads of Glass and Music as Color

Incantatrice(Sorceress) by Toots Zynsky.  Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Incantatrice(Sorceress) by Toots Zynsky. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

In 2011, Stratoz and I went to the Rochester Jazz Festival on vacation, and maybe this is why I at first when I saw this sculpture at the Corning Museum of Glass(CMOG) on our way back from the festival, I assumed the artist was a man.  The name is Toots Zynsky, and I immediately thought of Toots Thielmans, Belgian jazz harmonica player.

But then, as I was looking at this amazing glass vessel, Incantatrice(Sorceress), I heard a woman’s voice emanating from the video monitor, describing her work with glass threads, filet de verre.  It makes me happy to discover another woman who is making art with a passion and innovation.  She helped create a machine to pull glass threads, and then evolved a technique of laying the threads in a pattern, putting them in a kiln, and finally squeezing the hot glass to get her undulating vessels.

Zynsky was part of the beginnings of the Studio Glass movement in the US, and studied with Dale Chihuly in the 1970’s.  Using glass as a medium for art was new territory in the modern art world.   As Zynsky says in her bio on the CMOG site:

Glassmaking was wide open. . . Hot glass slipped through the air, pulled and stretched. There was music and the furnaces were roaring. . . and everyone was working in concert. . . It was this material that hadn’t been widely explored as an artist’s medium. Everything was possible, and there was so much to be discovered. There were no rules. You could do anything you wanted.

The first words I heard from Toots Zynga were, “When I hear music, it translates into color.”  A musician of color, and a wonderful way to follow the Rochester Jazz Festival.  Check out this video to see her at work:


U is For Uroboros Glass

Uroborosimages Uroboros Glass, founded in 1973 by glass artist Eric Lovell, is based in Portland, OR, and turns ordinary sand into extraordinary art.  Here is how Lovell describes the origin of the name Uroboros:

Uroboros is an alchemist's term often represented by a dragon symbolizing the cyclical Nature of the Universe. The uroboros has its tail in its mouth creating a circle of renewal or life everlasting. Our name honors the traditions and lore of medieval alchemists as they struggled to turn non-precious lead into precious gold. Today, we use non-precious sand to make some of the most precious hand-cast art glass available in the world.

I love using art glass in my mosaics, with the unusual textures and colors, never two sheets exactly the same, and traces of the creator, a kind of fingerprint.  Sometimes what might not work for Stratoz in his stained glass projects will look marvelous in mosaic and vice versa, and even within one sheet, there are enough variations to keep us always interested. 

Here's a cool video of the hand blown, hand rolled process of making art glass:


Beauty Imported From Detroit: Art Glass, Fox Theater and the Fisher Building

Art Glass Chandelier at Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI
Art Glass Chandelier at Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI

Ruth over at synch-ro-ni-zing wrote about the Imported From Detroit Superbowl ad.  I hadn’t seen it, and was moved by the acknowledgement of strength and beauty in the city of Detroit.  I’ve never had occasion to discover the glories of architecture of Detroit, and the identity of Motor City and Motown seemed all encompassing, so I was delighted to see the art glass at the Fox Theatre, where the ad finishes.  The restoration of the chandelier was done by Rocky Martina and his staff at  A World of Glass:  Detroit’s Premiere Art Glass Company.  Martina remembers practically living at the theater for 7 months while working this restoration. The devoted historians of Detroit’s buildings, Dan Austin and Sean Doerr, maintain a site, Buildings of Detroit, with more photos of the Fox Theatre.


Geza Maroti Mosaic, Fisher Building. Detroit.
Geza Maroti Mosaic, Fisher Building. Detroit.

I always hope to see mosaics, and although the Fox doesn’t have any, I did find the Fisher Building, designed by Albert Kahn, and was awed by the work of Geza Maroti, a Hungarian artist brought to the US by architect Eliel Saarinen.  The roots of this building are deep in the auto industry, as it was built by the Fisher brothers who invented the enclosed auto, so that driving could happen year round. Check out the amazing series of photo essays on the Fisher Building on dETROITfUNK.

I never expected to take a detour into the beauty of Detroit thanks a television commercial aired among the weirdness of Superbowl ads.  I am heartened when art and the beauty of human creativity and spirit appears in a place I didn’t expect, and breathes into the constricted images we have of a place that is written off, as the narrator says, by people who have never even been to Detroit.   The etymology of advertise is from the Latin advertere, “to turn toward” with a connotation at first as a warning, but then as a public notice, bringing attention to goods for sale or rewards.  I haven’t been to Detroit, but this advertisement brought my attention to this city, and makes me want to go there.

Over at Stratoz’s Blog:

Jazz on Tuesdays–Jazz in Detroit

Sally Prasch Scientific Glassblower: Belated Ada Lovelace Day

Sally Prasch Scientific Glass Blowing
Sally Prasch Scientific Glass Blowing

March 24th was Ada Lovelace Day.  According to the site, Finding Ada, Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

Bloggers from around the world wrote about a woman in science or technology on the 24th.  I had planned to be one of them but after a day at a craft show, I completely forgot.  I chose Sally Prasch, scientific glassblower.  I didn’t even know that such an occupation existed.  Scientific glassblowers make custom glass laboratory equipment for chemists, and have their own professional American Scientific Glassblowers Society.  East Carolina State has an interesting page of resources describing the work.

Lilith and Adam in the Garden of Eden, Sally Prasch
Lilith and Adam in the Garden of Eden, Sally Prasch

Sally Prasch took a flameworking class at 13 years old, and loved it, and went on to apprentice with a scientific glassblower.  She went on to get a degree in Scientific Glass Technology from Salem Community College in Carney’s Point, NJ.  This is the essence of Ada Lovelace day, the possibility of women discovering what they love to do, and being able to pursue it.  There are only about 700 scientific glassblowers, and Prasch is among a handful of women in the field.  She also creates artistic glass, bridging the worlds of science and art.


Embrace: The Glass Sculpture of Christopher Ries

Embrace glass sculpture by Christopher Ries.
Embrace glass sculpture by Christopher Ries. Photo by Wayne Stratz(2009).

Stratoz and I went to Guiding Light,  the Ries exhibit at Misericordia University, and were awed by the collection of work. Stratoz took many photos, in hopes of capturing something of the essence of these sculptures.  This is a three dimensional experience. Each piece offered up a multiplicity of reflections and angles as I circled around each one, and created a meditative state of discovery and delight.  As the gallery director, Brian J. Benedetti writes in the program, “Christopher Ries is fundamentally a sculptor of light.” Embrace is imbued with vibrant orange, but thrown magically from the base of the piece, to inhabit the clear crystal tip.

Christopher Ries Peace Sculpture.
Margaret Almon with Christopher Ries Peace Sculpture. Photo by Wayne Stratz(2009).

Here I am next to Peace, a glowing whale’s tail on the waves, or as it now occurs to me, a white dove, in glass tourist glory.   Tourists have their photos taken by monuments, often memorializing the war dead, so it is a relief to find a monument to peace instead. I will close with an excerpt from a poem called Sea of Glass, which  I wrote about the first time I saw Ries’ work, in 1996.

“Ries presses his chest into the machine

he has made, polishing the opaque glass,

not knowing the inside

until it is finished.

The glass sculpted like praying, leaning on the heart

to change its inner shape.”

–Margaret Almon

Related Posts:

My First Poetry Reading in a Long Time

Christopher Ries and a Sea of Glass