Making art from glass is time-consuming. It is an undertaking that can unfold over hours, but more often takes place over days, weeks, or even months. A great music playlist can be essential to keeping focused and staying creative. These playlists were the starting point for our exhibition Out of the Vault: Soundtracks. MOG Curator Katie Buckingham sat down with April Surgent to learn more about her work in the exhibition and her creative process.

KB: August 19th is World Photography Day, so let’s talk about But You Won’t Look Back. Is it based on photos you took while traveling?

AS: Yes, while I was in college, I received a scholarship from the Spanish Embassy in Canberra, Australia to travel to Europe. I traveled for four months and took a lot of pictures to bring back as research. Throughout the trip, I was thinking about how place informs people and their environments. But You Won’t Look Back is inspired by a church in Milan, Italy. I was people-watching on the piazza, where all these normal people just passed by the cathedral – it was fascinating how such a grand building just blended into the city.    

KB:  So, I’d love to hear a little bit more about your playlist. Are these songs the ones you listen to while you work?

AS: I was listening to the songs in this playlist on that same trip around Europe. It’s my go-to playlist. When I don’t know what to listen to and I have to get to work, these are the songs that guide the vibe.

KB: Engraving is a very time-intensive process – do you listen to other things while you work

AS: I listen to a lot of books and podcasts. To put it in context, when I am engraving, I don’t chose books that are shorter than 20 hours. I usually work on the same piece for several weeks at a time, so I like to get into a long book. One of my favorite audiobooks is Lolita, narrated by Jeromy Irons. He is such a wonderful orator, it is like listening to play.

KB: How do you keep inspired over such a long period of time?

AS: Coldworking is the perfect thing for me. I’m really slow at things and kind of introverted. Lots of research hours inform my work, so I don’t find the hours of engraving to be a hindrance. In fact, I feel like if I were in the Hot Shop, I might be overwhelmed by how fast I would have to make decisions.

KB: So, what happens when you are stuck on a creative problem?

AS: Whenever I am feeling like I need extra inspiration, I spend time in my garden. Even though living and working at home can be hard, I get a lot of joy from my garden, and I feel like it helps clear my mind. A lot of times when I feel stuck, uninspired, or overwhelmed, I’ll just start something. Even if I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I just start to do something. Anything. Even though I don’t necessarily know where it’s going, I think just starting is always key.

KB: You typically do a lot of research before embarking on a piece. How does that research take shape for you?

AS: That has changed a lot since COVID-19, because, over the last decade, I have been traveling a lot. But since the pandemic, I have been doing all my research online and reaching out to people in the field from home. So, doing research like everyone else, I guess.

KB: How’s that going? Do you like it?

AS: I do like it. It feels good, it feels freeing. If I get interested in one tangent or another, I can focus on it, and run down the whole rabbit hole. And I can bring all of my past research together on the table and sift through it. It feels really good to have a library of information to scatter about. I don’t think I will necessarily stop traveling, but this new approach has been fun.

KB: What are you working on next?

AS: I’m really excited about a commission I am completing for Brunnier Museum at Iowa State University. They were interested in my environmental work, and I am working on a piece connected to their research. You can also visit my website or Traver Gallery to see more of my current work.

Check out April Surgent’s playlist on Spotify, and visit us at Museum of Glass to see more of our collection featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks.

About The Artist:
Glass artist April Surgent makes work that raises public awareness about climate change and environmental impact. Surgent began studying blown glass, but after studying with Czech master engraver Jiří Harcuba at Pilchuck Glass School, she transitioned to working with engraved glass. In creating her work Surgent draws from her experiences with conservation research and her deep interest in the beauty of the natural world. Inspired by the connectivity of our ecosystems and connection to place, Surgent’s glass works call for thoughtful reflection and positive community impact.

Surgent’s work is featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks, currently on display at Museum of Glass and open through June 18, 2023.

Learn more and view Surgent’s work at https://www.aprilsurgent.com/

Image credits:

  1. Photo by Derek Blagg
  2. April Surgent (American, born 1982). But You Won’t Look Back, 2006. Fused and cameo engraved glass; 17 1/4 × 33 1/2 × 2 1/2 in. (43.8 × 85.1 × 6.4 cm). Collection of Museum of Glass, purchase courtesy of Lisa and Dudley Anderson. Photo courtesy of Bullseye Gallery.
  3. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  4. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  5. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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