Columbus Makes Art Presents Sarah Todd on Teaching and Practicing Glass Art
Sarah Todd is an independent working artist, a Glass Axis instructor in hot and fused glass, an instructor in hot glass at Franklin Park Conservatory and serves on the Glass Axis staff as a studio technician. She is one of six artists involved in making glass pieces as part of Glass Axis’ annual exhibition Fantastical Creatures, which will be held virtually this year. We sat down with Sarah to talk about how she got her start in glass and about one of her favorite projects she’s involved with at Glass Axis.
Melody: Very few artists grow up knowing that they are going to specialize in glass. Where and how did your interest in glass start?Sarah: I had no idea that glass would be my eventual medium. Originally, when I started college I was focused more on a degree in art education, so I could teach others about how great art is. During one of the fundamental classes I attended freshman year, we worked with wood, which I loved. I started as a double major in craft and material Studies and art education. Early on, I took an intro glass class because I had some spare credit time. I was hooked. There’s nothing quite like glass, the heat, the feel of working with it, I couldn’t stop. So, terrifying my parents, I dropped my education degree and went all in on glass. I still teach, but in a much more satisfying way now.
Melody: Glass artists travel all over to learn more about their art and they still have the chance to study with some of the pioneers in studio art glass. Where have your studies taken you?
Sarah: I’ve worked at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, and at Pilchuck Glass School (founded by Dale Chihuly) in Stanwood, Washington. I also taught at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia shortly before I moved to Ohio. All wonderful places with great people.
Melody: What draws you to the Fantastical Creatures project?
Sarah: A lot of things the kids come up with, I wouldn’t even think about. It’s cool to see what they’re into and how that’s reflected in their drawings. I love showing them how challenging and rewarding glass can be. I love the look on kids’ faces when I tell them I’m holding essentially a metal stick with 2,000 degree goo on the end, and that we’re going to turn that into an awesome 3-D object that they designed with their imagination. The best part is knowing they get to keep it after, and it can be part of their home forever.
Melody: Glass has been predominately a male-dominated art form. What advice to you have for women who are interested in getting involved and noticed for their glass art?
Sarah: Just put yourself out there and apply for everything. People recognize good art when they see it, and I know a ton of female glass artists who are making waves and getting a lot of attention in the industry. Places like Pilchuck Glass School and Corning offer emerging artists funding, creative studio residencies and art shows. They’re always looking for fresh new artists to display and help kick-start their careers.
Melody: Besides its obvious awesomeness, what brought you to Columbus?
Sarah: It’s funny actually, I moved to be with my boyfriend. We met on a dating app, I was living with my parents in Virginia and he was living in a town in West Virginia. After talking for a few months and a couple visits we both looked into cities that offered jobs in our respective fields and I found out that Glass Axis here in Columbus was hiring. He found work in his field here and I settled into working at the studio.
Melody: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now? Sarah: Columbus is vibrant and fun and there are tons of shows and fantastic people making great things happen. The street festivals and fairs happening virtually every weekend around the city allow for exploring different aspects of the Columbus community and getting involved. I’ve loved being a part of this fantastic community.
Sarah is one of six artists involved in making glass pieces as part of Glass Axis’ annual exhibition Fantastical Creatures. This year we worked with 3-5th grade students from Alpine Elementary, Avondale Elementary, Oakmont Elementary, Starling PK-8 and United Preparatory Academy. Students are asked to imagine a creature that has never existed before, draw a picture and write a story about it, then our artists choose several to turn into a glass sculpture. The final products are then gifted to the students. Normally classes are invited to the studio to watch the creatures be made, but this year, we are continuing the project virtually. We’ll be making the creatures and sharing the videos with students. More info about the show, the process and the videos can be found through our website at www.glassaxis.org.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Arts Council is maintaining a list of virtual arts experiences at ColumbusMakesArt.com/Virtual. The public is also invited to contribute to the Arts Council’s fund: Emergency Relief for Artists fund.