Out of the Vault: Soundtracks with Ned Cantrell

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 Ned Cantrell to learn more about his work in the exhibition and his creative process.

KB: Could you tell us more about The Emperor’s New Clothes and your 2019 residency at MOG?

NC:  During my residency I reworked some of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, giving them a contemporary spin. The Emperor’s New Clothes depicts an Emperor wearing nothing but his crown and tattooed insignia of oil companies. Underneath him the ground is burning. Often it seems that politicians perpetuate a lie because the alternative would mean losing face and political suicide. In the original fairytale, a child reveals the Emperor’s hypocrisy by shouting “The King has got no clothes on.”  

KB:  Describe your playlist – is it what you listen to while you work, or a list of your favorites?

NC: Music can be a muse. I have occasionally made pieces directly inspired by a song, but more often it is a mood or atmosphere which I find inspirational. My playlist is a bit of a mix. It includes some favorites that have been played on repeat and some tracks which I think perhaps relate to my work in some way.

KB: Where do you make your work?

NC: I am privileged to have my own hot shop together with my wife, Karen Nyholm, in Ebeltoft, Denmark. Ebeltoft is a hub for glassblowing not unlike Tacoma, with six glassblowing workshops, around 20 glassblowers, and a glass museum.

KB: What about your studio space helps your creative process?

NC: Our workshop used to be owned by Finn Lynggaard and Tchai Munch and was the first in Ebeltoft in 1979. The building is a piece of Danish glass history and holds many stories. It reminds me that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. And is also motivating to be a part of a bigger picture.

KB: Where do you look for inspiration?

NC: I have one theme which is common to almost all of my work, which is a discourse between high culture and low culture. Basically, I take objects from low culture — trash, cartoons, mass-produced plastic products — and reproduce them using virtuoso glass techniques. Sometimes my work may be political or conceptual, but mostly it is aesthetically motivated. I live in a very beautiful part of the world, so it is probably very wrong of me not to be inspired by my surroundings. Most people would, I guess. I am not sure why, but I always seem to be looking for ugliness.

KB: How do you push through a creative block?

NC: Never play to the gallery. If I am blocked, I try to make things only for myself and not think about what anybody else will think of it. I allow myself time to play and create without worrying about the results. I make some embarrassingly bad things sometimes, but this is also the time where I develop most.

KB: How was your creative process impacted by the pandemic? 

NC: The pandemic didn’t affect my work very much. It was easy for us to isolate because our workshop is on our property, and Karen and I usually assist each other anyway. I just crawled back in under my stone.

KB: What’s on the horizon for you and your work?

NC: We are about to light the furnace after a break for the summer. I have too many ideas for what to make next, so I will have to be selective. Certainly, more inflatable pool toys. I am really into them. And probably a new series with dead insects. We have many dead insects on our windowsills already, so it seems like an obvious thing to make. Coming up, I will be teaching at The Glass Factory in Sweden and I have a residency at Nuutajärvi Glassworks in Finland. In 2023, I will be returning to the Pacific Northwest to teach at Pilchuck Glass School together with Karen.

Check out Ned Cantrell’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:
Ned Cantrell graduated in England in 1997 and has been running his workshop in Denmark together with Karen Nyholm since 2004. Over the years, he has absorbed a range of techniques for blowing and hot-sculpting glass which he excretes in an eclectic and unique mix of styles and disciplines. Ned utilizes symbols of pop culture and consumerism such as trash, tattoos, and science fiction, while exploring the contradiction between the objects’ kitschy spirit and the finesse of craftsmanship. His work has been widely exhibited in Europe, Asia, and the USA.

Cantrell’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 Cantrell’s work at https://www.nyholmcantrell.dk/?v=dd65ef9a5579

Image credits:

  1. Ned Cantrell, pictured with his wife and collaborator Karen Nyholm. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  2. Ned Cantrell (Danish, born 1975). The Emperor’s New Clothes. Made at the Museum in 2019. Blown and hot-sculpted glass; 25 1/2 × 9 1/2 × 8 1/2 inches. Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist. Photo by Mark Aimerito.
  3. Ned Cantrell working at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington in 2016. Photo by Stephanie Lifshutz.
  4. Ned Cantrell (Danish, born 1975). Geisha, 2016. Blown and hot-sculpted glass; 27 1/2 inches tall. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ned Cantrell.

Out of the Vault: Soundtracks with April Surgent

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.

Out of the Vault: Soundtracks with RYAN! Feddersen

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 RYAN! Feddersen to learn more about her work in the exhibition and creative process.

KB: Let’s start by talking about Disconnected Bison Stack. It was made at the Museum as part of your 2019 Visiting Artist residency.

RF: During the residency, I was making a series of works inspired by Columbia Plateau burden baskets. These baskets are traditionally used for food gathering, but I have been thinking about the metaphorical burdens we carry.  Disconnected Bison Stack talks about two different burdens – the first references the mass slaughter of the bison, an extremely destructive part of colonialism that continues to have ramifications today. The second set of icons relates to a previous project called Disconnected Towers. That project was inspired by the gentrification I witnessed in my neighborhood in West Seattle, where single family houses were torn down to build much more expensive, inaccessible units. Disconnected Bison Stack combines icons and symbols from both projects onto a burden basket.

KB:  I’d love to hear more about the music that you put on your playlist. Do you listen to it while you work?

RF: I listen to a lot of different things while I work, and I wanted to share some artists that I look up to. Buffy Sainte-Marie and John Trudell are icons of contemporary Native music.  Black Belt Eagle Scout and Ya Tseen are from a younger generation. I selected songs that I think are beautiful, musical pieces, but also have important social commentary. The playlist mirrors the importance of social messaging in my own work. I also really wanted to include local artists. I like listening to music, and a lot of my friends are in bands, so it was important to me to represent some local scene as well.

KB: Another aspect of being creative is where you work. I’d love to hear about your studio space.

RF: I like where I work because it feels like a time warp. My studio has low windows and, because the lighting is always the same, I have no idea how long I’ve been working on something. It is really nice to just be consumed by my process and lose track of time without distractions. I also like the ability to work in different places. I might work in my studio, but I often draw in a chair by the window (if my cats let me) or at my kitchen table. Sometimes I like to work in bars, too. Having different spaces can shift your point of view.

KB: That’s really cool. When you’re working on a new series, where do you go for inspiration?

RF: I try to bring in a lot of different references. It is like a funnel – you need to fill yourself up with a lot of ideas, and then what comes out the other side, the processing that happens, is the work that you do as an artist. My work often starts with Plateau storytelling and aesthetics, and combines with contemporary ideas. It is very important to think about the messaging within a piece, and include metaphor, symbolism, and action to reinforce its content.

KB: Do you do anything to help push through a creative block?

RF: Sometimes an idea strikes like a lightning bolt. Other times it takes a process. I noticed myself doing the same things over and over again in my sketchbook, so I made myself a brainstorming template. It has a series of lists that help me think through different lenses. For example, there is a list for content – what am I trying to communicate? And another section for thinking about material opportunities – am I working in glass? Vinyl? Acrylic? And a third list for thinking about how to integrate action and inter-activity. Then I take ideas from each list and start connecting them together.

KB: What are you working on now?

RF: Recently, I’ve been working on Coyote Now projects, which are contemporary adaptations of Coyote’s role as the trickster. I had a residency at Institute of American Indian Arts where I started working on an idea called Coyote and the Monsters Yet to Slay. One of Coyote’s jobs, when two-legged people were going to come and inhabit the world, was to slay monsters that were going to be a threat. I have been thinking about how we have all these societal monsters that still need slaying, like the economy, and about ways that Coyote could symbolically do that work for us.

Check out Ryan! Feddersen’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:
RYAN! Feddersen specializes in creating compelling site-specific installations and public artworks which invite people to consider their relationships to the environment, technology, society, and culture. She is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation from the Okanogan and Arrow Lakes bands. Her interactive murals, site-specific installations, and immersive public artworks activate spaces throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Feddersen’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 Feddersen’s work at: http://ryanfeddersen.com/

Image credits:

  1. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  2. RYAN! Feddersen (Confederated Tribes of Colville, born 1984). Disconnected Bison Stack, Made at the Museum in 2019. Blown glass; 14 3/16 × 10 3/4 in. (36.1 × 27.3 cm). Collection of Museum of Glass, gift of the artist. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Out of the Vault: Soundtracks with D.H. McNabb

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 D.H. McNabb to learn more about his work in the exhibition and creative process.

KB: I’d love to hear more about Horizon Study Attempt #27. Is it inspired by a specific sunrise or sunset?

DHM: They’re general – the one in Out of the Vault was inspired by the trip to Tacoma for my residency in 2018. Imagine you’re driving West – that oblong shape of the bubble is the morning sunrise in your rearview mirror. Some of my earliest sunset memories are watching the sun over where I grew up in Tampa Bay.

KB: The paint on the wall is really eye-catching. What inspired that addition?

DHM: I’ve been to a number of collectors’ homes, and they can be so crowded. You’ve got a Lino [Tagliapietra], piled on top of a Nancy [Callan], piled on top of anything. For me, the paint defines the boundary of the space so you can’t creep close to it.

KB: Let’s talk about your playlist. What do you listen to while you work?

DHM: I generally don’t listen to playlists while I work, I listen to albums. The thing with playlists is that you have to sit there and construct them. In the Hot Shop, I don’t want to be distracted. I just need some tempo in the background. Usually, we start with something kind of old school, like Miles Davis. Then something more upbeat, like DJ Shadow, followed by a long concert, like Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, or Led Zeppelin. Then we finish with something chill, like Bob Marley.

KB: Other than music, what is most essential to your creative process?

DHM: Having a great rapport with who you are working with. For years, I’ve worked with Janusz Poźniak and David Walters. They pretty much taught me how to blow glass, and then the next thing you know you’re assisting them, and then you turn around and they’re assisting you. It’s a great way to learn and to have aesthetic, have conversations with each other. Even though our works are different, you can see the visual ways we riff off each other.

KB: Where do you look for inspiration?

DHM: Well, I just look at a sunset [laughs]. But seriously, pretty much everything I liked when I was ten still holds true to me…nature, astronomy – everything from flora and fauna to the aurora borealis and stars. The only difference is that, through my undergraduate and graduate education, I can better articulate my ideas.

KB: How do you push through a creative block?

DHM: I have always fought against the worry that I won’t be able to come up with an idea. I came up with this term graduate school called “f*ckused” – where you’re so focused on something that you’re f*cked, you can’t get a new angle on it. So, I try not to get too f*ckused.

KB: So, what are you making now?

DHM: I’m continuing to think about sunrises and sunsets and have been imagining new shapes with faded colors. The latest iteration are these smart-aleck participation trophies. You know, like: “Thanks for participating sun!” Or “good job sun, that was a great sunset.” You know, “keep up the good f*cking work,” that sort of thing. I’ve been calling them Horizon Points or Sunset Trophies. Because the sun deserves an attaboy/attagirl too.

Check out D.H. McNabb’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:
D.H. McNabb’s work utilizes traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques to create mixed media pieces and installations that use glass in new and innovative ways. His artwork showcases a clever look at the world around us, inspired by everything from barware and cocktail glasses, to physical emails and potato chip bags.

McNabb’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 McNabb’s work at: http://dhmcnabb.com/

Image credits:

  1. Photo by Tadzio © Fondation d’entreprise Hermès
  2. D.H. McNabb (American, born 1980). Horizon Study Attempt #27, Made at the Museum in 2018. Blown glass, paint and plywood; 28 × 36 × 9 in. (71.1 × 91.4 × 22.9 cm). Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist. Photo courtesy of Museum of Glass.
  3. Sketches of early examples of Horizon Study. Courtesy of the artist.
  4. Viewing the sunrise through the lens of an airplane window, an early reference image for the Horizon Study series. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist Interview: Reflecting on Pearl Dick’s First Visiting Artist Residency

Pearl Dick. Us, 2017. Blown, sculpted glass; 12 1/2 x 16 x 6 inches. Photo by Randy Korwin, courtesy of the National Liberty Museum.

Pearl Dick’s Visiting Artist Residency was initially scheduled for 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic. With this being her first residency at Museum of Glass, which began on July 14, 2021, both parties were anxious to join forces. During Dick’s week-long residency, she worked on pieces from her Sculpted Heads series. Her previous work from this series is currently on display in Transparency: An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition, available to view through summer 2021. Luckily before Dick had left the Pacific Northwest to head back home to Chicago, we had some time to reflect on her first residency at Museum of Glass.

Pearl Dick working with the Team in the MOG Hot Shop.

How about a few fun questions to start? Did you do any exploring while here in Tacoma, WA? If so, what was your favorite spot?

Pearl Dick: I was really excited to visit Hilltop Artists while I was in town. I have been aware of and working with folks from that program for a while now, so was great to get to see it all in person!

What is the first thing you have planned to do when traveling back to Chicago, IL?

Pearl Dick: We had a community bike ride the day after I got back to Chicago, visiting historical sites on the South side of Chicago as part of an initiative we are involved with acknowledging and commemorating the Chicago Race Riots of 1919. Over 400 people showed up for the ride. Firebird presented prototypes of the memorial glass markers we are creating to be installed in city sidewalks where people were killed during this atrocity.

Can you tell us more about the organizations you work with back in Chicago? Specifically, Project FIRE and Firebird Community Arts?

Pearl Dick: I am the Artistic Director of Firebird Community Arts, a non-profit organization based on the West side of Chicago. We work to connect people through the healing aspects of art-making and community-building. We are a woman-led, all-inclusive studio providing access to glassblowing and ceramics. Project FIRE is our flagship program. F.I.R.E. stands for Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment. This program is designed to promote healing through glass and ceramics for young people in Chicago who have been injured by gun violence.

Now let’s talk about your residency! This was your first Visiting Artist Residency here at Museum of Glass. What did you enjoy most about working in the MOG Hot Shop, and how did the atmosphere shape your work?

Pearl Dick: Oh man! I can’t say enough about this MOG Hot Shop team!! They are truly remarkable artists, technicians, and all-around wonderful humans. I was able to make pieces that had eluded me with their expert help. The whole MOG crew, in fact, was on point. This was a pinnacle of my artistic journey so far and really refreshed my love of making my own art since so much of my energy over the last decade has been devoted to my community work. This residency was truly a gift and I feel even more inspired to bring that energy home.

Your work is currently featured within Transparency: An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition, and you took some time to discuss these pieces on Transparent Conversations last week. Could you tell us about the art you created during this residency and how it relates to other pieces within this body of work?

Pearl Dick: It was an honor to be included in this show and amazing to get to see it beautifully displayed at MOG–and to get to create my work in the residency with Sarah Gilbert in the hot shop, who was also a part of this exhibition was extra special for me. All of the work we made during this residency spoke to the themes of connection and relationship, which is what my work in Transparency was about. We added some elements of color and connection and scale that elevated this message.

Lastly, can you let everyone know where they can see your art or plan to see the work you completed during this Visiting Artist Residency?

Pearl Dick: One of my favorite pieces created during this residency will stay with you all at the museum, which is also a huge honor to have my work created with your team become a part of the permanent collection. One of the pieces has a technical anomaly so I get to keep that one, which I am not sad about. I have yet to see the other finished pieces so I will wait to get them back to Chicago and decide where they go from there, but I imagine I will probably live with them for a minute and replay the awesome experience I had creating these before I send them out into the world.

Pearl Dick’s work ready to be worked in the Cold Shop after her Visiting Artist Residency.

About The Artist:
Artist and educator, Pearl Dick specializes in glass and art making as a means for expression and healing. Drawing from her life and observations, Dick’s work speaks to our human connection. From the relationships that span a lifetime to the casual interactions that last only an instant, no connection is insignificant. Her work, whether in glass or paint, is meant to spark a memory, feeling, or emotion within the viewer that is deeply personal—in those moments, her work becomes universal. 

Dick’s work is featured in Transparency: An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition, currently on display at Museum of Glass, and open through September 6, 2021.

Learn more and view Dick’s work at:
pearldick.com/studio