Women kick glass in the Twin Cities

Twin Cities women glass artists express their creative sides with a unique medium.

Torchress' hand blown glass work, participating in a collection with other women artists, sits on display at Legacy Glass Works on Thursday, Nov. 14.

Jasmin Kemp

Torchress’ hand blown glass work, participating in a collection with other women artists, sits on display at Legacy Glass Works on Thursday, Nov. 14.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

Glass is a difficult medium to work with, as it involves knowing how to use a molten-hot furnace. However, glass artists have developed respect and understanding for their craft through years of trial and error.

This also rings true for the women glass artists of the Twin Cities. This art form is their platform for expressing themselves through more than just glass pipes.

Each glass artist was first exposed to glass in different settings. For Corina Guerra, it was as a high schooler before touring Alfred University in 2008. Guerra and her mom made a stop in Corning, New York before getting to the school.

“They have this big glassblowing museum and I saw a demonstration and it was the coolest thing in the world,” Guerra said. “I was like ‘How do I do that with my life?’”

So, she enrolled in Alfred University’s glassblowing program. Since graduating, she uses glass in more than just the artistic sense. 

Guerra now works full time as a scientific glassblower for 3M. She sees glasswork through two different lenses — as creative expression and a scientific experiment.

“When I’m not making tactical things for clients, I’m messing around and working more with design than like art with a capital ‘A.’”

In her time working in several glass-related fields, Guerra has noticed that in some cases, there aren’t a lot of women who do this work.

“In the hot shop, it’s like there’s that macho man kind of attitude with certain people,” Guerra said. “It put me off from wanting to have a career doing hot glass because I didn’t want to deal with that kind of like man’s world.”

There are facilities in the Twin Cities, though, where this isn’t necessarily the case. 

Guerra noted Foci, which is the Minnesota Center for Glass Arts. It’s a nonprofit, publicly accessible glass studio that has been an inclusive space for glass artists. 

There have also been showcases and events, like Legacy Glassworks’ “Girls Kick Glass,” which highlight the work of women glass artists. 

Kelly Nezworski, the executive director of Foci, says that their membership is 50 percent women, creating a different atmosphere than other studios.

“I really like the community at Foci because there are so many women there,” Guerra said. “I haven’t seen that in many places.”

Nezworski started working with glass after finding a piece of art she admittedly couldn’t afford at the time.

Now, she makes molds based on her body. She works with a 2,000-degree furnace to create her sculptural work.

“Glass can pick up the pores on your face or the fingerprints on your skin,” Nezworski said. “It replicates in a way that is just really interesting.”

Nezworski realizes that glass hasn’t always been the most accessible art form to women, particularly in the past.

“Glass really has intentionally throughout history excluded women,” Nezworski said. “There was definitely a lot of machismo around it, and it stuck for a long time.”

Emily McBride, the program coordinator at Foci, says the shift to inclusivity in glass arts has helped her and others identify role models in the community.

“I’ve always looked up to the badass women glass artists,” McBride said. “I don’t have any fear with glass anymore. It’s really how you use your body and control the glass, and women aren’t limited at all in that sense.”

McBride noted a difference in the creative processes of men and women glass artists, but ultimately everyone is working and learning together.

“Men glassblowers like making fancy pieces and are super focused on technique. And you’ll see women exploring the material and being really thoughtful and creative.”

What: Let It Glow: Happy Hour Fundraiser Celebrating Women Glass Artists of Foci MCGA

When: Dec. 6, 5-8 p.m.,

Where: Foci, 2010 E. Hennepin Ave., Building 10, Minneapolis

Ages: All

Cost: Free