We’re so familiar with glass being used for everyday objects, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the same brittle material can be sculpted and molded into incredible works of art. Glass was first developed as a decorative material by ancient Egyptians, who used it to create trinkets and colored beads for jewelry. The material was then adopted by the Romans who used it to create glass vessels and mosaics from the 1st century onwards. However, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that artisans brought glass art to new heights by using it to create colorful stained glass designs for the windows of European cathedrals.
Today, many contemporary artists continue to explore the possibilities of the malleable molten material, and shatter the boundaries of the craft. From the perfection of traditional hand-blown glass skills to the development new precision techniques, today’s artists are showcasing the surprising versatility and captivating beauty of glass.
Whether it’s blown, cut, or cast, here’s 8 contemporary glass artists who are turning glass into incredible works of art.
Known for her incredible “knitted” glass work, Carol Milne first began her career in landscape architecture, before studying sculpture, and then glass art. Through endless experiments the artist pushes the limits of the material by combining her love of knitting with her skills in cast glass sculpture.
When describing her work, she explains, “I see my knitted work as metaphor for social structure. Individual strands are weak and brittle on their own, but deceptively strong when bound together. You can crack or break single threads without the whole structure falling apart.”
Shayna Leib creates extraordinary glass-blown sculptures that encapsulate the fluid movement of ocean plant life and sea creatures. Each piece freezes a moment in time, with glass tentacles, silky seaweed, and coral colonies extending from their frames. As a passionate deep-sea diver, she reveals, “The ocean has always been a source of inspiration and mystery to me, and it is a lifelong goal of mine to dive all of the earth’s seas.”
Glass artist Kiva Ford creates miniature vases, wine glasses, and bottles—some of which are no more than one inch tall. A member of the American Scientific Glassblowers Society, Ford specializes in creating custom-made glass instruments for scientists who require one-of-a-kind designs for various experiments. Applying the same annealing techniques to his own artistic practice, his miniature works are not only adorable, but also highlight the artist’s expert craftsmanship.
You can purchase many Ford’s tiny glass objects on Etsy.
Washington-based artist Dylan Martinez plays with human perception through his series of Glass Water Bags. Resembling a plastic bag filled with water, the incredibly lifelike sculptures—featuring rising bubbles, ripple-like creases, and hand-tied knots—are made entirely from solid glass. “Through my artwork,” Martinez explains, “I create scenarios in which the viewer must question their capacity to navigate between reality and illusion.”
London-based artist Cathryn Shilling transforms glass into stunning works that resemble pieces of tartan-patterned fabric. Known for her experimental “woven” techniques, each piece of “glass cloth” is made using thin canes of Venetian glass. By sculpting the molten glass into fine threads of no more than one or two millimeters, Shilling then weaves the strands together before fusing them in the kiln.
Kiev-based glass artist Nikita Drachuk (aka Glass Symphony) sculpts glass spiders, octopi, slugs, and other critters by hand. Using a method called lampworking, Drachuk uses a torch to melt rods of colored glass. Once in a molten state, he then uses various tools to blow and shape the glass into delicate little creatures.
You can purchase pieces from the Glass Symphony collection on Etsy.
Jack Storms creates stunning, prism-like optical glass sculptures made by combining lead crystal and dichroic glass. Having developed an incredibly rare glass art technique, the artist’s process involves many weeks of repetitive grinding, cutting, and polishing cold glass by hand. Each piece begins with a core of lead crystal which is cut, polished, and laminated to create reflective mirrors. When wrapped in optical glass, refraction of light passes through to create dazzling rainbows of color.
Having received world-wide recognition, his work has found homes in numerous private art collections, and two pieces have even appeared in the Guardians of the Galaxy film.
Flavie Audi challenges the perception of solid glass with her series of Fluid Rocks made from blown glass, pigment, and precious metals. Each piece looks like blobs of jello, enticing the viewer to touch it, just to see if it wobbles. Although the artist keeps her exact technique a secret, rumor has it that the incorporation of fine gold and silver helps to create the mesmerizing, color-shifting, iridescence.