Deborah Czeresko Artist Talk: Venetian Glass, Then and Now

Date
  • On Thursday, November 4, 2021, the Smithsonian American Art Museum hosted a virtual conversation with Deborah Czeresko, one of the featured artists in New Glass Now, on view at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery from October 22, 2021, to March 6, 2022. Learn more about Czeresko’s perspective as a woman working in the male-dominated field of glass and how she incorporates traditional Venetian glass techniques into her innovative artwork. This program looked at the artist’s iconic Meat Chandelier and how it relates to artworks from SAAM’s exhibition Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano, which examines the influence of nineteenth-century Venetian glass techniques on American artists of the same era. Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at SAAM, joined the artist for this engaging conversation on the past, present, and future of glass art.
     

    - (Mary Savig) Good evening, everyone, and welcome to this virtual talk with Deborah Czeresko on Venetian glass then and now. I'm Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery. Please use the Q&A box to ask any questions. We will share key information with you throughout the program via the chat box. We also ask that you not close your browser window, as the survey will appear after the program, and we appreciate your feedback about the program today. This program is being recorded and will be available on our website. It is also being live captioned, which you can access with the closed caption button at the bottom of your screen. The Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery is a non-profit organization that relies on private donations. We're able to share free digital programs like this one today thanks to funding from generous supporters like you. Please consider showing your support with the donation today. A link to donate on our website was just posted in the chat box. Thank you Deborah and everyone whose behind the scenes work made this event possible tonight. In New York, we're so grateful to the talented team at UrbanGlass for allowing us to use this fantastic space for a program. Here at the Renwick Gallery of the American Art Museum, we're grateful for Gloria Kenyon, Jessica McFadden, Sophia DeLoatche, Elisa Tamarchenko, Carlos Perrotta and our captioner, Karen Schneider, who have all helped us run this program smoothly. Once again, please fill out the survey in your browser and let us know what you enjoyed about today's program. So this program tonight is really exciting because it brings together two exhibitions featuring glass currently on view. The first one is "Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano," an exhibition that brings to life the Venetian glass revival of the late 19th century, when Murano glassmakers began specializing in delicate and complex hand-worn vessels, dazzling the world with brilliant colors and sculptural flourishes. American painters and their patrons visited the glass furnaces and many collected vessels decorated with flowers, dragons, and sea creatures. This exhibition features more than 140 objects, including glass objects in conversation with paintings, watercolors, and prints by talented American artists who found inspiration in Venice. This exhibition was curated by Alex Mann and will be on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through May 8, 2022. "New Glass Now," organized by the Corning Museum of Glass, is a global survey of the breadth and depth of contemporary glass art. The exhibition highlights the innovation and dexterity of artists, designers, and architects from around the world working in the challenging material of glass. Its presentation at the Renwick Gallery features objects, installations, videos, and performances made by 50 artists working in more than 23 countries. From technically masterful vessels to experiments in the chemistry of glass and, of course, a glass meat chandelier, these works challenge the very notion of what the material of glass is and what it can do. The exhibition was curated by Susie Silbert, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass. "New Glass Now" will be on view of the Renwick Gallery through March 6, 2022. These two exhibitions tell very different stories about glass in an international context and yet, when considered together, new questions arise: What is the enduring influence and relevance of Venetian glass in contemporary American art? With this in mind, I'm looking forward to talking with artist Deborah Czeresko. Deborah, could you turn your video and audio on, please? Based in New York, Deborah uses a range of approaches and techniques in her work, including hot glass sculpting, performance, and collaboration. She began working with glass at UrbanGlass in 1987 after earning a BA in psychology from Rutgers University. In 1992, she earned a graduate degree in studio art at Tulane University. Since then, she's been a glassblowing instructor and visiting artist at many universities and schools throughout the United States and in Europe. In 2019, she won the first season of "Blown Away," a glassblowing competition television series currently available on Netflix, and she's joining us tonight from UrbanGlass in New York. As we'll soon discuss in detail, Deborah's work is inspired by personal experience and the mundane details of everyday life, with subjects including chewed gum, car mufflers, potatoes, and, yes, meat. To draw the playfulness and poignancy of Deborah's work, we've juxtaposed her artworks tonight with paintings and glass vessels from "Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass." The show has given us an opportunity to consider some historical context in conversation with Deborah's creative career. So first we wanted to talk a little bit about the space of the hot shop. Deborah, I'd love to hear your experience of the dynamics of the hot shop. "Blown Away" captured, I think, the thrill and unpredictability of glassblowing and often the heartbreak. How did you first step into the hot shop?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) First of all, thanks for having me here tonight, Mary. I'm excited to be coming to you live from the hot shop of UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York. Honestly, this is kind of where I found glass. It was this place that was formative in my glass career and, like glass itself, it seemed like a mysterious calling to me. I walked up the ramp to this hot shop and saw the goo being formed and was drawn to it energetically, so my life was changed. It was kind of my material equivalent of me because I saw it as this incredibly androgynous material that went between states of hard and soft, sharp and soft, and clear and opaque--all these contradictions that added up to one beautiful, mysterious thing, so I related to it.

    - (Mary Savig) Yeah, and I think on the left you'll see a painting of a Murano studio as observed by American artist Charles Frederic Ulrich. To your point, this painting also illuminates the theatrical quality and allure of glass studios. Here, men are working their magic in these heroic feats of strength, and a trio of women in the front are flirting and giggling with the glass blowers and also with tourists who are coming in, and they're being encouraged to look closely and really enjoy this process of glass being worked into intricate and beautiful vessels. Here, they are making some goblets; you can see in the painting. So I was just thinking of how they are making really beautiful forms--often described as fairy-like and delicate--and what are you working on in your photo?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) In that photo, I'm at Corning Museum on my residency fabricating a wheel cover for a car which will later be mirrorized and shiny for an installation. It's interesting. I'm using subject matter that's very personal to me. The experience of being in the hot shop is also very personal. Not only was I struck by the glass, but I was struck by who was in the hot shop floor 30+ years ago when I started glassblowing and there wasn't very many people where I saw myself reflected. I saw this as kind of a continuum of my personal experience. When I went to college, I was on the varsity volleyball team and really wanted to be a successful athlete at the time but saw really no future in it. Where do you go as a female athlete? Now this idealistic ex-college student coming out into the world and seeing, oh, this is real life, too. So it really drove me to want to become a master of this material and take on subject matters which reflected this experience.

    - (Mary Savig) I think in a lot of ways your subject matter play with this juxtaposition that's happening in studios. What's going on in the painting is that it's men creating these really beautiful floral forms that would become souvenirs, and you're really flipping the script. So I'll show a detail of the hubcap with one of the goblets. Can you talk a little bit more about why you made wheel covers and the gendering of materials?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, I mean it's pretty obvious in the world we assign gender to almost everything around us, be it metal or yarn or whatever. It comes with this preconceived societal notion of what gender that thing is, and where does that come from? I'm not exactly sure the history of all that stuff, but what it made me want to do is just reinvent it for myself as something kind of empowering. So if I saw steel, I now made it in glass and it became, like I said glass is very androgynous so it became this like sort of non-binary material to me and in this case the hub wheel covers are considered the jewelry of the car. So gearheads have told me these wheel covers are considered jewelry of the car. I thought that was very interesting, this very vain part of the car, very masculine. vain part of the car. So I'm really dealing with this influence of gender and gender materials and how we perceives things and the psychology. I studied psychology in undergraduate school, and the psychology side of me really sort of prepped me to get into this kind of mode of thinking about things, like where does it come from? What what age do we get imbued with these ideas and how does it happen? I mean, it goes on and on where these subjects go. Obviously they've been used to oppress people. For marginalized people, these ideas are marketed to people. The power is in these things, obviously. So I like what glass can do to different materials, how it can transform it.

    - (Mary Savig) I think that question about power is a good one and leads to our next slide, which is this painting and related work. The painting is by John Singer Sargent of a Venetian woman. This is a life-size picture of a woman who embodies the mysterious and sensual character of Venice. So who has the power to show her and see her in Venice. As Alex Mann explained in the catalog, she is actually Sargent's model and she poses as a woman who sorts canes of glass by color in Venice. So in her hand or canes of blue glass. This is a task done by piecework labor outside of feed factories throughout the islands. The woman's labor is essential to the economy and culture of Venice, but her own body becomes the surrogate for the fragile vessels and the gritty environments of Venice. So with this in mind, I wanted to talk about your next work, "The Muffler," and how, again, I think you're upending these intersections of a lot of different hierarchies. You're really unpacking them in really interesting ways. So could you talk a little bit about the backstory and your personal memory that informs "The Muffler"?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) I grew up with a brother who was one year older than me, and he was a motorhead. He was constantly disassembling cars and reassembling them and I thought it was an amazing thing, but there really was a division of the things he could do in my family and what I was doing, like vacuuming and stuff like that... sewing. I just really wanted to also be a car mechanic. [Czeresko laughs] It's pretty funny. So I started to think--this is a very recent piece about materials and metal and transforming that material into this sort of glorious thing. This is a car exhaust; it's spewing out this sort of ejaculate of hideous smoke. But in this case, I transform it into a gorgeous, Venetian, cane-worked billow of smoke and this beautiful mirrorized exhaust that now becomes this glorious part of the car. So I'm trying to own this as an empowering thing as opposed to toxic masculinity, which would be represented by the car exhaust. It's now un-toxic masculinity that I'm embodying myself. Just because I am born a female doesn't mean I can't also be masculine, but I don't want it to be toxic, so I get to choose and that piece sort of talks about that.

    - (Mary Savig) Yeah, and you're switching the gaze, too, where in "A Venetian Woman" we don't know anything about her, and it's not really about her own experience. Here, your works become really inflected with your own life experience. This is another work, "Venetian Glass Workers," that shows inside a shop in Venice that is dark except for the luminous canes of glass. Women are seated cutting them into beads, which will be polished and globally disseminated. Their faces are obscured. As Stephanie Mayer Heydt notes in the catalog, this picture and others like it share a strategy of deliberate emotional disengagement. The works in their work made invisible are merely parts of a larger whole. I think this is a really interesting facet that speaks to a larger conversation about craft histories versus painting and sculpture histories, where the labor that turns canework into beading and then a lot of beadwork itself is often a different kind of labor that is recognized in vastly different ways than Johnson or Sargent himself. So with this in mind, I wanted to look into your own beadwork and one of your early works called "Peach." Could you give us a little bit of backstory on how "Peach" came to be and the craft that inspired it?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yes, I think this piece is the beginning of my dialogue about crafting, who crafts, who's empowered by crafts, who takes things from craft and uses them. In my lifetime I've seen like the word "craft" be taken out of organizations' names, taken out of school programs, and I personally thought this was a little nuts--crazy. I saw my hands and my body in this space--the hot shop--as an empowering thing, and I saw it for people that came through these doors and did other types of crafts as empowering them. I think it's really come to light in this COVID lockdown era that we've been in how important it is for people to do things with their hands and how meaningful it is for them to have things that they make with their hands, be it food like bread. Craftspeople long for that. Their lives were empty without these things that made them feel human. When I saw this happening, it began my dialogue about monumentalizing crafts. So I took a standard issue craft kit that you'd find in a classic craft store. That typically was marketed to women and kids, and it took the power of craft out of them because they're just putting beads in something. They don't do any real thinking about what they're doing. Making that into this monumental, juicy sculpture. That pink is so pink. That pink is the pinkest you can get in glass--erbium pink. It's a really rich, juicy color, and I chose the juiciest fruit. It's very feminine.

    - (Mary Savig) It's very seductive.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Sexualizing that crap, eroticizing the crap, and then monumentalizing it as well, putting all that into it. The things that were taken out of it by this culture we live in, this society here in America.

    - (Mary Savig) Yeah, you're giving the labor some presence and visibility. Making a giant peach also kind of plays with these ideas of high and low. So the next slide is a painting of glass souvenirs sold on the streets to a growing number of tourists in Venice. Acquiring these works brought such satisfaction to a lot of collectors because they could have a way of showing them off in their homes, which is really important, and the catalog for the exhibition goes into that pretty in depth, but also for a lot of people who continue to collect souvenirs, it really is also just this way of holding a memory of a trip and an emotion. There's a lot of power in that as well, so I wanted to juxtapose that with your sculpted work of dogs and toys, and thinking about this idea of souvenirs and how, again, you magnify the work of glassmaker. It's traditionally been seen as making trinkets, and you are monumentalizing it.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) I watched many a maestro create a small chachka, or a souvenir, for people. I saw how much skill went into that and then how diminutive that thing would be because we were limited and just the power of scale in this regard. I mean, souvenirs are sort of fetishistic objects. People fetishize them the way they also fetishize their animals, so it's like really talking about human psychology. It's a lot wrapped up into it--what we're attracted to, how we're attracted to it, but also about skill and craftspersonship. Making things gets lessened--it's diminutive--because of the scale. So I wanted to do things people could relate to, as like their own pets and just to impact what it really means to make things. Also, a lot of this work I put a little sense of humor into. I'm talking about it very seriously, but my nature is to approach life with some humor a lot of times.

    - (Mary Savig) Those are hot sculpted rawhide bones. [Savig laughs]

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, total fakes. Not real. [Czeresko laughs] So I really love those pieces.

    - (Mary Savig) Me too.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) They're very sculptural objects. I love sculpting, and so I find things that can relate to my ideas in a sculptural way but also challenge me technically. I mean, knotting glass, like that's pretty fun and hard, so technically I try to challenge myself as well with objects.

    - (Mary Savig) So a lot of the vessels, as I said previously, were used to decorate homes and then would again show up in these paintings, all as these signifiers of taste and elegance and also as a way to tell the story about a person. Again, it's this way of the object becoming a surrogate for a person. Next, we're just going to walk through a few more slides that help draw out some of these ways in which Deborah herself has been putting her own experience and self into her works. So first is "forgotten potatoes."

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, that piece came to be from a challenge on the "Blown Away" series, which was a botanical challenge. I chose to make something sort of atypical, not only that I found incredibly beautiful in the world, the sprouting potato, but also that had metaphorical power to represent marginalized people, or anything "other," that wasn't given credit because it didn't look like the standard issue advertiser's idea of what beauty should look like. How other things are even more powerful around us but because they didn't have the same capitalistic worth, weren't marketed to and therefore we didn't see ourselves on the TV screens when we turned it on. So all these things are around us all the time that are incredibly powerful and I wanted to represent them, and this potato to me in the botanical world represented that subject. It's become a very meaningful piece to me. I associate with it very heavily, and a lot of people that have written to me also agree and reflect that. I love that piece.

    - (Mary Savig) Yeah, and I think that's what's so powerful about it is how it is surprising, and and it's also so relatable. It is very important to global food production and can feed so many people versus flowers. Also, on that note is the idea of a lot of your work is not intimidating; it is very welcoming. Thinking about gum is a wonderful way of pulling people in and thinking how we can see beauty in everyday life, including on the steps to the subway in New York.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) That's where I found the inspiration for this piece. It was like someone had just expelled a gumbo, and it just sat there all delicate. I just saw that humans are constantly doing these things which we don't consider art but really are, like chewing, and get these amazing forms. I like what you said that this is not intimidating. It's like there's a surface. Everything has a surface that's an object. I want my surface to be inviting to so many people, to not be off-putting to anyone. So food subjects in particular a lot of people can relate to, but they're supposed to be sort of conversation starters in a way, where there's many layers of meaning that can go beyond. So that's what something like the gum can do.

    - (Mary Savig) I also appreciate that as a glass blower you're finding a really novel way of talking about breath and glass and the relationship.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yes, it's true. Every piece that I blow has my artist's breath going into it or my assistant's artist's breath. I mean, the gum really lends itself to glassblowing. There's a poetic beauty that's not typical. It's also this poetry all around us--visual poetry, I'm talking about. That's what I'm looking for. A lot of my subjects come from the four block walk between me and the subway, so it's amazing how different every day is out there and what I can mine from it.

    - (Mary Savig) Well, that leads to our next work, which is also for a lot of people drinking tequila and having dinner. You've taken these really elaborate Venetian vessels and you brought them down to earth--literally, with the worm on top. Could you talk a little bit about this work?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) This series, the "Venetian-Style" series, is really impacted by this idea of high and low. Certain things are considered high art or low art, or high food or street food. This is a tequila decanter, and at the top of that tequila decanter is a Venetian-style worm. So a Venetian dragon is the stem of many goblets. So my tongue-in-cheek version was sort of idolizing the tequila worm on top, which is the earthworm. It's not necessarily an earthworm in the tequila bottle, but this is an earthworm Venetian-style, which gives a lot of nutrients to our common, everyday soil. So I'm sort of idolizing that worm up there and really putting the tequila and the tacos on a pedestal because, for me, that is high cuisine. It is amazing food. I don't see high and low when it comes to things like that. I consider myself a master of something. There are so many different ways of looking at value and worth. Not one is greater than the other.

    - (Mary Savig) Well, I agree with you, except for the fact that I think Eggos really are greater than everything. [Savig laughs] Again, this is another example of thinking about things that often have a low value like frozen foods and elevating them into these beautiful works.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yes, these are your standard issue, frozen, round waffle, not the Belgian doughy kind of waffle. It just speaks to American culture and how we fall in love with these things that are food. I mean, when you love something it elevates it, right? So these things become elevated because people fall in love with them. This is part of my "Buffet Collection," which was a series of editions I did after the "Blown Away" finale so that I could sell additions to people that wanted to support me, so this is one of the additions.

    - (Mary Savig) Then your upcoming work--before we talk about "Meat Chandelier"--is related, and this is the next chandelier you're working on, "Turkey Carcass."

    - (Deborah Czeresko) This is the body--I was going to make a joke. This is the body of the next chandelier. So the next chandelier is called the "Poultry Chandelier," and this chandelier might actually be on the ground. I don't know the definition of chandelier, but it actually might exist in a pile on the ground. Thanksgiving is coming up, and it's not always the most joyous holiday for everyone out there because of the history of what happened. I began to think of these turkeys in a different way when I started reflecting on what is that object laden with? What kind of meaning does it bring? I was originally using it as sort of the female body because it kind of takes the pose of a lot of classic paintings where the female was the kind of--

    - (Mary Savig) The reclining nudes.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) The reclining nudes. Yes, and so that was my original intention and then I was like I can't deny that it's a turkey. It's not done yet, so it's evolving as we go. But the lights were going to come out of the necks. The head would be the light. But I was thinking of them just all thrown together in a way. I don't know. It's still evolving.

    - (Mary Savig) The surface of this turkey is just so beautiful.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) I mean, they are pretty lush. I do like to bring some sensuality to pieces with the glass.

    - (Mary Savig) Yes, and I think this is the baster.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yes, this is a fertility piece I'm working on. For artificial insemination, it's like a fertility piece for queer people, actually. So this is going to be a hanging mobile of these pieces. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a mobile.

    - (Mary Savig) So the baster won't be part of the turkey chandelier?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Oh, good question. I wasn't originally thinking that. I was thinking it was going to be separate.

    - (Mary Savig) Okay.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) But I'm still playing with all these elements. Everyone's getting to see some things that are a little incomplete, actually, and totally complete works. But that's the way it happens. One thing builds on another as I start getting more components and talking to different people about ideas, but the basic element of the idea will be in there. Maybe it will combine. I'm not sure.

    - (Mary Savig) Well, the completed work that's currently on view in "New Glass Now" is the culmination of so much of your career. It is this epic work of really virtuoso glassmaking techniques to create this sausage fest and just wanted to get your back story of this work.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Since I was using my own skill as subject matter for the glass and my own presence in the hot shop as subject--which I think is really important to have role models of diversity in the hot shops so we can get different voices in here, not just this standard issue, Western approach. So I thought what would I make if I was a female maestro back in the day in Venice? The vernacular of the maestro--it's animals, fruits, chandeliers. There's classic things people make. I wanted to make a commentary on the hot shop and use the two things I really enjoy the most about glass, which is making lights and food in glass. So I combined the two in a sort of iconic vision. It's just really about empowerment and celebration of an alternative approach to being and changing the paradigm of being in the hot shop.

    - (Mary Savig) Establishing a paradigm for you is really centered on matriarchal leadership and mentorship and truly creating a new field for hot shops that are much more open to all kinds of forms that can come from the streets of New York to whatever anybody else's experiences are.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, it's very exciting to see this change happening now. It's really amazing to see different visions of what glass can be. My role is to just open the door so people can walk into it to empower other people. It's a different kind of leadership. It's creating opportunity, and sometimes it might look like mentorship if I have the time to teach. I don't always have that time, but it started to take shape--I want it to take more shape--but mostly it's about opening doors so other people can walk through those doors that didn't even know glass existed. It's happening; it's very exciting. I've gotten a lot of feedback that having me in the hot shop has been very meaningful for people coming into glass--trans people, people of color, BIPOC. They said if I wasn't there it would've felt too intimidating, and that is really meaningful. So I want to keep opening doors for other people because that's what happened to me. I wouldn't have been able to come into the hot shop, so I want to duplicate that experience. It worked for me, and it could work for other people.

    - (Mary Savig) As your work shows, you also had to upend a lot of expectations. So you are creating a new paradigm. With that, we are right at about 7:40, so I thought we could open the door to questions at this point. We can stop sharing unless you have anything else to say about "Meat Chandelier." It is actually one of several works on view at "New Glass Now" that are really about the changing landscape of glass art today and really making it a more diverse space for a lot of people to come into the hot shop. So for people who come to the show or look at the catalog, I think they'll enjoy that nature of it. All right. So, Deborah, I'm just going to start asking some questions that are coming in. What is the difference, basically, between Venetian glass and regular blown glass? Kind of can be the same thing.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) I didn't hear the question. I'm sorry.

    - (Mary Savig) What is the difference between Venetian glass and regular blown glass?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Well, Venetian glass is characterized by a lot of detail, a lot of bit work. Thinness--it has a lot of little parts to it. Classic Venetian glass has caneworking in it a lot of times. It's a really difficult working style. It's very challenging.

    - (Mary Savig) It takes many, many years. A more specific question: Are the designs on the wheel covers all shaped by hand or are they slumped in a mold?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) All of the wheel covers were made by hand. They weren't slumped in a mold at all.

    - (Mary Savig) Ok, so they're all hand sculpted.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Mm-hm.

    - (Mary Savig) Are the pebbles under the potatoes made of glass?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) That's the soil. Yes, it's glass. It's glass frit.

    - (Mary Savig) Frit. Okay. Works like "Celadon Gum" play with scale. What makes you interested in playing the scale?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Scale. It's interesting to play with it. It has to do with the power of seeing the piece. That's one of the things. In the case of the peach, it was about monumentalizing something. In the case of the gum, it's about just being able to see something that normally most people would overlook and showcasing that ethereal look of the bubble.

    - (Mary Savig) Have you ever made something really tiny in scale?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yes, I just made recently some of the smallest things I've ever made at the furnace that were a half-inch big.

    - (Mary Savig) Oh, wow. Was it food?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) What did you say?

    - (Mary Savig) Was it food?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) No, it was for a piece of jewelry.

    - (Mary Savig) Okay. Here's a general question about your method. Deborah's sense of humor is evident in much of your work. Have you always used humor in your work?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) True. Is that a true or false? [Czeresko laughs] I always do. Yeah, pretty much.

    - (Mary Savig) Early work--that was lighting. Would you consider that humorous?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Oh, that's design work.

    - (Mary Savig) Yeah. So your studio practice has always been inflected with humor.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, like when I'm making a sculpture or a piece of art, but my lighting is not humorous, no.

    - (Mary Savig) General questions again. What kind of hurdles have you faced as a glass artist, and how have you handled them? Can you think of any specific anecdotes?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, glass is challenging on some levels. Some are obvious. One is physically. You've got to see this as the long game. For me, I've had to make sure I maintain myself physically so that I can come into the hot shop the rest of my life. Another challenge with glass is financial access. It is challenging financially to use glass as a sculptural medium and experiment with it. So being able to apply for residencies is essential. Getting in a place where you can actually afford glass in an experimental way is difficult, especially in the beginning. Barriers to entry are huge in glass because it's so financially difficult, and so I was helped by a mentor, actually, when I first started.

    - (Mary Savig) There are a lot of great community-based glass shops throughout the country, but, yeah, it's something where you usually have to go to a hot shop. You can't just, like crocheting, pick it up and do it on your sofa, so there are barriers to entry.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yeah, and it's tough that way. It really is.

    - (Mary Savig) Has there ever been something you wanted to make but didn't work?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Mmm. Well, yeah. Plenty of things have gone awry, I have to say. But that's where sticking with it really does help. Glass is one of those things you learn over years and trying as much as possible, different styles of sculpting and blowing. Making mistakes is the only way you learn with this material--the most significant way to learn. Glass can fail in so many ways. Like I've had things in the annealer that are 30-day annealing cycles and then had a power outage. That's not because of me; nature took its course there. So stuff does fall on the ground, but I have a lot of control over it at this point. It's challenging always. It's fun that way.

    - (Mary Savig) A lot of heartbreak, but you know you're collaborating as well.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Mmhmm.

    - (Mary Savig) I can answer the next one. Is there a video of the Renwick showing you working in the hot shop? No, we do not have a video in the gallery. I do believe there are several videos of Deborah doing demonstrations at the Corning Museum of Glass in their hot shop, so I think you can find those through the Corning Museum's website or also on YouTube.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Yes, definitely.

    - (Mary Savig) Here's just a scale question, again. What is your largest blown piece?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) 33 and a half inches in diameter. It's a glass Christmas ornament.

    - (Mary Savig) Oh!

    - (Deborah Czeresko) All glass, done hot. I used to do a Christmas special that was the world's largest glass ornament. That's what I called it. So the biggest one is 33 and a half inches in diameter.

    - (Mary Savig) Did it sit next to the tree? Could the tree go on it? [Savig laughs]

    - (Deborah Czeresko) It never went on a tree. [Czeresko laughs] It hasn't killed anyone either, but it was challenging to make.

    - (Mary Savig) Question from "Blown Away." What inspired you to participate in "Blown Away" and how did it help you learn anything about yourself?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Oh, yeah. Well, I almost didn't apply because I was down to the deadline, and I didn't have the application filled out. Luckily, I got it in just in time, but I was a little concerned how we'd be portrayed as glassblowers. Reality TV has gotten a bad rap over the years. It's changing its image in recent years. It's not like "Jersey Shore" or anything. I didn't know if they'd want us to have conflict or what, but they really saw the glass as the drama more than the people I think. I think they did it in a respectful way. The one question I asked was would we have to live together, and when they said we'd have our own places I was like, "Okay, I'm in." I really wanted to get in the public eye. I didn't really have a public view of where anyone could see my work up till then. I didn't show it in gallery very much, and my lighting was sold salon style, so there wasn't a public place people could see my work. I wanted to showcase what I did, honestly. Was there a second part to that question? I forget.

    - (Mary Savig) No, I was just going to say what's so interesting about the paintings in the "Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass" exhibition and that really show how romantic and theatrical glassmaking was to tourists going to Venice, is how "Blown Away" really was able to capture a lot of that as well. Venice in the late 19th century really did experience this glass revival. Did you feel any of that from the "Blown Away" series, as far as thinking about visibility of glass throughout the United States and Canada?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Its impact has been huge, yeah. Programs are being filled. Prior to that show, a lot of the schools in the Northeast were having trouble filling their classes. They're starting to have trouble because obviously everyone's going towards digital. It's all where the money is, and they're disempowering crafts, like I said. Then, suddenly, it's in the public eye and people see its worth and how exciting glass is. It really hasn't been a material of art for that long. The studio glass movement is like what, 60 years old? I don't know for sure. Something in that regard.

    - (Mary Savig) Something in the 1960s, yeah.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) So it's really new, and the excitement of it just really caught people's imaginations. There's a lot more interest. I could tell. People I know--they're just selling more work, classes are filling. There's a huge interest in glass now.

    - (Mary Savig) That's great. Then just a technical question of how does the "Meat Chandelier" light up? I can answer that because I watched it installed, but it's wired. [Savig laughs]

    - (Deborah Czeresko) It has little light bulbs on the end, but it's wired through the arms. Each arm is an individual link that's linked with a metal fitting in between that I can articulate into the position I want. I sort of figured the whole mechanism out myself. It was a pain. It took a long time, but I got it. It's just wired up through it and into a center hub and then that goes up to the ceiling.

    - (Mary Savig) Well, related, someone asked, "Can you discuss your design challenges versus technical challenges? How do you make your design ideas come to life?" Probably through trial and error.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) I don't understand the question.

    - (Mary Savig) Okay. How do you make your design ideas come to life?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Well, I start with a basic idea and then get it to the point where I can come up with some object that I want to make and then after seeing some initial results, I have a dialogue with that work. If I'm really stuck, researching whatever it is I'm working on--is the subject about meat? Just reading about the history of things really does help get the imagination going. So it's about creating connections with different elements. It's like missing links. Literally--because of the links in sausages. God, how does that happen? I mean, art's really tricky. For this kind of work, I think there has to be some kind of point of action, something that makes it tell the story, in a way. It is narrative. It's tricky, but that's where it just takes off. It's where it becomes something other than just an object.

    - (Mary Savig) So when you are working, do you use assistance in your studio and particularly for large pieces?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Oh, absolutely. It's just really essential to have the right skill set and the right people out there. Otherwise the work becomes really, really difficult and unachievable. So a lot of times--depends what you're making--you have to have someone almost the same skill level as you are. A lot of times I do mentor people on the simpler things. I bring them up. My style of education now isn't academic. It's training people, sort of a paid apprenticeship--they get paid--but I'm teaching simultaneously. So a lot of schools that have glass aren't trade schools, so people come out with the intention of being an artist. But a lot of the work we do to make money is kind of things that require some kind of production or skill set that can produce objects that are functional, or in the beginning, anyway.

    - (Mary Savig) It's helpful to watch some of the demonstrations on the Corning Museum's hot shop page because you really do see that the teamwork requires such a high level of skill. It's almost like watching a ballet with all these moving parts. It really is a theatrical way of making something very technically difficult. We have one more question. Deborah, thank you for being with us this evening. You are an inspiration for so many reasons. What would be one bit of advice for those of us seeking to spark creativity?

    - (Deborah Czeresko) For creativity? I would say meet as many people as you possibly can. I just think people are inspiring. I always just try to look at the world in a different way. Glass is a liquid. Try sculpting glass. It's always inspiring. Sculpting liquid is cool. Sculpting liquid is hot. But it's just interaction, it's about synapses, about things linking together and connecting. You've got to get your imagination soaring, and I think just try a lot of different mediums in the beginning, too. Look at dance, performances, drawings. New York is just an art gallery everywhere so it's like. It's pretty inspiring here. I'm amongst a huge group of people that's driven to make work, so I don't think every place has that, or if that's good for everybody. I don't know, but I get energy from the people around me.

    - (Mary Savig) Well, everybody watching this, thank you so much for joining. Please remember to fill out the survey at the end of the Zoom talk, and I hope you find creativity on your Thanksgiving table this year or anywhere else. Thank you so much for joining us and Deborah and everyone at UrbanGlass. Thank you so much.

    - (Deborah Czeresko) Thank you. Thank you, everybody, for coming.