I recently binged the first season of Netflix’s new glassblowing competition show, Blown Away. Along with a lot of viewers, I was quite literally blown away by this show - I had never considered what is behind the arduous process of glassblowing. It is a facet of sculpture that I never gave attention to, however, after watching the show, I found it breathtaking.
One facet of the show that I found particularly interesting was the experience of an older, female contestant. She spoke often about her experience as a woman in the hot shop. She told of how she is often the only woman in the room, and how the industry is still very male-dominated today, as it was in the 20th century. Her final piece on the show was an incredible gallery of pieces that symbolized the female power in the workspace. She was represented by a quirky glass egg yolk, which was surrounded by obtrusive phallic imagery such as a hard glass frying pan and a line of glass sausages.
I found her installation so whimsical and fun, but not at the expense of a deeper meaning. Glassblowing is very male-dominated, but there are tons of badass womxn changing the game of the field. While some of them specialize in artistic glass sculpture and others in more common consumer goods, each one of them has created an impressive portfolio against the odds of a male-influenced industry. Here are 10 female glass blowers who should be on your radar:
Based out of Manchester, England, Gemma started blowing glass in 2008. She’s a young blower, but you would never know - her technique is great and her pieces are lovely. Her recurring themes are often birds and bird nests, and her pieces definitely blur the lines between human creation and nature.
Mia Shea describes herself as “The Glass Yogini”. She specializes in sculpting the human female form. She calls her creations “goddesses”, symbolizing strength, beauty, and movement. To her, glassblowing is a spiritual journey. Her products are for sale here!
Kathleen is a 61-year-old blower who has seen the field of glassblowing morph over the years. She has won many awards and her series have been featured in prominent collections. Her work mimics nature, often so well that it is difficult to tell what is organic matter and what is glass. Her series Imaginary Botanicals (shown above) gives her realistic style a whimsical twist.
Amber sculpts using pressed-glass from the 1940s-80s. Her materials are often found in flea markets, thrift stores, and old factories. In her words, these are the places that have been “abandoned to the dust bins of American design”. Her works are absolutely breathtaking; it is fascinating to look at the miniscule detail she incorporates into her designs.
Lacey St. George
Lacey St. George (aka LaceFace Glass) creates stunning, dark pieces that remind me of sci fi/fantasy characters. Along with smoking accessories, she makes independent sculptures that can only be described with one word: badass. She also performs in theatrical glass blowing performances, such as the one linked above. This piece, The Lightseeker, is a “is a 142 piece, functional glass installation sculpture assembled on stage alongside a choreographed performance including live dancers and sound design.”
Shayna is a young glassblower with a Masters in Fine Arts of glass and metal from the University of Wisconsin. Her sculptures reflect music and philosophy, which are two major influences in her life. She says she enjoys working with glass because of its ability to flow and to freeze a moment in time. She also says she is “intrigued by the multitudes of tiny little parts”. My personal favorite piece of hers is Pâtisserie (featured above), in which she sculpted individual life-sized desserts.
Carol is noted as the “lone pioneer in the field of knitted glass”. She was determined to merge her love for knitting experimentation with her love for glassblowing, so she developed a casting process to cast knitted work in glass. Carol says she loves this process because it demonstrates that “Individual strands are weak and brittle on their own, but deceptively strong when bound together.”
Glass sculptures don’t just exist in museums - they are all around us. Your cups, wine glasses, lamps, centerpieces - these objects all deserve an appreciation for the incredible effort and artistry that goes into them. Researching these innovative female artists has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for the art that exists subtly all around me. I encourage you to check out their work, and appreciate the glass art that exists in your space!