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Toots Zynsky: Threads of Glass and Music as Color

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


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