Design(ed) In GlassMay 6- September 2, 2016

Ken Saunders Gallery
Feb 10, 2017 10:06PM

Intentional design can bring order to chaos and elevate the human experience. Our deepest senses relate to hand crafted objects and there is a feeling of connectedness when we see traces of the craftsperson’s effort in their work. The artists in this exhibition blur the boundary between designer and maker and create objects that resonate for their utility as well as for their sculpture beauty. 

Design(ed In Glass installation view

Artist/makers working in the realm of the hand-made revel in the power of their intuition and technical prowess as their exerted mastery informs the creation of objects whose usefulness could rest solely on qualities of exquisiteness. (Even as they embrace the happy accidents that may lead to unexpected breakthroughs!) Our deepest senses relate to hand crafted objects and there is a feeling of connectedness when we see traces of the craftsperson’s effort in their work. Offered as a group of engaging objects with utilitarian qualities the exhibition, Design(ed) in Glass, stands as a fascinating overview of what intentional design means to contemporary artists working in the medium.


Julie Conway creates sculptural lighting in glass often working on site-specific installations. Since first gathering hot glass in 1997 Julie has traveled the world to apprentice with the great masters of glass working. The artist’s studio practice is located in Seattle where the rich glass working scene has inspired her to continue to refine her expertise. Her wondrous Raven, installed as part this exhibition, is covered with over 400 small blown glass embellishments. The artist has made use traditional materials and techniques to create edgy evocative sculptural works with a distinctly contemporary aesthetic and appeal.



Yosuke Miyao’s breathtakingly austere forms are created by bending thick pieces of float glass by hand. To create his Stool the artist utilized a dozen different glass-working techniques and 5 different tools to bend a single sheet of glass into the desired shape. For the artist/designer the float glass, used to make windows, with its smooth finish and complete transparency, is quintessentially beautiful while Miyao’s artistic impulse is to imbue his creations with surprising function. Miyao’s bench seems to float in the space it occupies lending a softness to a setting despite the material’s actual unyielding hardness.

MARK HURSTY, Candle Vortex (detail)

Mark Hursty uses pressed glass in ways that are both conceptual and very craft based. The use of a manufacturing technique that was popularized in the 19th century as a way to create decorative objects inexpensively gives the artist’s works a surprisingly hand-made quality.  Hundreds of molded glass elements, each similar in shape and size and yet visually unique, have been sewn into large hanging sheets and shaped forms. The objects Hursty has created for the exhibition have organic qualities that recall fiber works even as their serial qualities suggest the digitization of a single original element. 


Kathryn Wightman finds inspiration in the juxtaposition of digital strategies and traditional art making techniques when she creates conceptual sculptures that explore domesticity, women’s work and craft. The artist’s large glass Rug and two glass “needlepoints” with their hybrid decorative patterns are technical tours-de-force that bristle with critical ripostes. Wightman’s Rug is the outlier in this exhibition since she has taken an object thoroughly identified with design and made it impractical and unusable. Like the finest Persians and Tibetans Wightman’s Rug is for contemplation and not for walking upon.


Taken together the artists in Design(ed) in Glass advance a number of critical and conceptual issues which designer/makers must grapple with. The best work in the exhibition achieves a balance of function and concept with form ultimately subjected to the needs of the first two. Kathryn Wightman has pointed out that “digital technologies and traditional working methods are blended in a way that seeks to demonstrate sensitivity and understanding to material.” I want to express my gratitude to the artists for pursuing their passion and creating work that is unique and authentic.

Ken Saunders Gallery