by Andrew Page
The naiveté that defined the early days of Studio Glass, when the equipment was crude and outcomes uncertain, encouraged unbounded experimentation. In the early 1970s, Toots Zynsky contemplated leaving her fine art studies at the Rhode Island School of Design to pursue a medical degree—until she stumbled upon the glass department. There, her curiosity was engaged, and her passionate nature found an outlet in this material, whose limits were not understood by the artists wrestling to create meaningful form from its unforgiving nature.
Long before she would develop her signature glass-thread fusing process, itself a groundbreaking development that marked a rare update in the millennia-old techniques of vessel forming with glass, Zynsky was already eager to push boundaries. Still a student, she attempted to stretch a mass of hot glass just shy of its breaking point to create a work that would literally capture the tension that animates the material. But the rough glass, ladled out of RISD’s furnace and stretched taut, never survived the annealer, and her ideas would remain unrealized.
That would all change in 2016, when Zynsky became the first female recipient of a specialty glass residency at Corning’s Sullivan Park Science & Technology Center in Corning, New York. As we learn in Alexander Castro’s revealing cover article, Zynsky was able to use a new formulation of glass to achieve her decades-old vision and is still enthralled by the experience of working with cutting-edge materials, which has sparked new ideas and energy that echo her formative forays into glass.