“Glass is definitely not the most forgiving material,” says Philadelphia sculptor Amber Cowan, who creates elaborate monochromatic works from repurposed scraps of American pressed glass that she sources from donations, thrift stores, and inoperative factories. Her process changes with each piece—sometimes it’s a particular color that strikes her; occasionally, she dives right into flame-working the material, heating the glass in a kiln before melting and shaping it with a torch and bonsai shears.
A recent finalist for the New York Museum of Arts and Design’s prestigious Burke Prize, she will next present her wondrous creations in a summer show at the Sandwich Glass Museum in Massachusetts, followed by a group exhibition at R & Company in the fall. “My work looks very fragile, but the construction of it is strong,” she says. “Luckily, if one small component breaks, I can just throw it back in the kiln and re-form it.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2020 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.