With Sticky Glass
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With Sticky Glass
When we're in the midst of the creative process at Arjé, we're driven as much by the journey as the end result. We're fascinated by methodology, technique, applications and variations that ebb and flow along the way as design grows from concept to reality. We loved Blown Away, the show about glass blowers doing amazing things with new sculptures and shapes. Watching these artists working with hot flames and ancient tools was fascinating and awakened so much curiosity - you could say we became a little obsessed with the art of glass blowing.
When curating glassware for Arjé HOME, we explored artisans all over New York City to find makers with a studio we could see in person to watch the magic unfold. That's how we found Grace Whitesideof Sticky Glass in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Their shapes are playful, unusual, and each piece stretches the imagination of what elegant, refined glassware is "supposed" to be. We were immediately drawn to the unconventional forms and how well each piece is made.
Inside The World of Glassblowing
Founder Grace is as unique and colorful in work and life as the glassware they make, and finds the process as powerful as we do. Creating original shapes with that alchemy of form and function is exactly what we do at Arjé- and look for in everything we love. One afternoon last month, we had the pleasure of visiting the studio to watch Grace work. Seeing them moving throughout their space firsthand, we knew they felt just as strongly about creating a foundation for collaboration, community and gathering. (And we were thrilled that the process of glassblowing is just as incredible in real life.)
Grace: It was so lovely to have you in the studio! Not many get to understand the process of glassblowing and what goes into making each cup. I felt like we both came out of that experience with a greater understanding of each other and what we are doing together...
Arjé: We loved learning about the process from A-Z! Watching you choose colors and forms, experimenting with shapes, how you manage all the production with a two person team. It was amazing to observe your approach, it really spoke to us.
Grace: The first thing you told me when you approached Sticky was that you wanted to think about homeware differently. You had renovated your home by hand- it was part living gallery, part workshop of art and tableware with the opportunity for people to actually come in and use the space. That movement and collaboration was new and exciting to see and important to me and my work.
Arjé: People are really embracing non-traditional shapes and branching out with their tablescapes and new objects in their homes. Are you finding that?
Grace: Yes! My glassware is performative-meets-function-meets-designware. I ask myself- how far can I take a cake platter?I launched Sticky in 2020 with cups and tableware, but with every object I sell, it’s an experience to use the glassware. It’s not just your average cup. It may be functional but there has to be more than meets the eye. You really saw that in my pieces.
Arjé: When did you fall in love with glass? How did the journey start?
Grace:I wanted to study textiles in college but the weaving class was full, and I reluctantly took glassblowing because it was open. I was immediately hooked. The professor was experimental and exploratory and matched my energy. It’s very physical. There’s a sports element to glassblowing. Molten glass mimics the body’s movement. We learn how to use our bodies in order to work with the glass- there’s a human, physicalized empathy in how the glass folds and forms. It’s like working with living creatures!
As a queer and trans person, I’ve always been forced to see the world a little differently, to figure out a place for myself. Putting glass out into the world, I can create something that may not exist in a preconceived landscape. I’m always thinking about the queer held space.
Arjé: Just watching it is very physically intense. How did you get used to being around fire all day?
Grace: Ha! Your body just adapts and builds tolerance. Similar to chefs, you definitely have to not mind being dirty, obscenely sweaty and often uncomfortable. Maybe it is a sport for masochists?
Arjé: How did you master it?
Grace: I’ve been doing it for eight years. I may have improved tremendously, but I feel like there are always a million things to learn about glass. For me, glassblowing is a tender relationship between myself and the material. It is ever evolving and growing, which sort of eliminates this hierarchy of "mastery." Some might call themselves a master but I prefer something like "heavily involved and dedicated glassblower?” Ha!
Arjé: Your process is freestyle, you don’t use molds. What’s the hardest part of creating pieces this way?
Grace: Glassblowing is a very difficult process. It takes many many years to become proficient. The hardest part is being a human and attempting to make perfect shapes with exact dimensions. It is a very ancient process that involves the risk of human error. Maybe this is one of the only crafts that will never be able to be replaced by robots? Ha! Let’s hope…
Arjé: Your working studio is at UrbanGlass- we were so inspired just walking in the door. You also teach and perform, which is so inspiring to us. What do you love most about being there?
Grace: They really encourage exploring and stretching the boundaries of glass as a creative medium. There’s multiple professional glass blowers working together all the time. The job itself is teamwork, you’re working intimately with another person at least 8 hours a day. My team is women, men, nonbinary. It’s a tight, supportive community. That is something I really love and look for in all my collaborations and creative partnerships.
Arjé: The way you see shapes is very out-of-the-box. We fell in love with the uniqueness of the Scribble Collection we have at Arjé, how they work individually and or as a set. How did you come up with these forms?
Grace: Sometimes images and shapes just show up in my head but I am often responding to glass's fluidity and queerness as a material. It is neither a solid nor a liquid so I like to freeze this motion in the glassware itself. I lean to playful designs, imagery from childhood like Dr. Seuss illustrations, in elevated forms. There’s so much inspiration from Ettore Sottsass’ Memphis Design Movement of the 1980s- the abstract squiggles, geometric shapes in bold colors and graphic lines from earlier Pop Art and Deco.
The Scribble Collection was inspired by child-like mark making (aka my own terrible handwriting.) I wanted to create really playful shapes, but in a sophisticated color palette. The glassware forces you to hold the cup and drink in a certain way. It becomes a bit of a performance rather than just the mundane act of eating and drinking. As a set they are total conversation starters.
Arjé: What do you see for Sticky Glass in two or three years?
Grace: I think about this a lot. There are many directions Sticky could go, which is very exciting. I would love to offer more educational and work study opportunities to folks interested in pursuing glass as a career or passion. It is a tough industry to get into and there are not many jobs available for beginners. I would definitely like to help the community grow in these ways.
I also hope that there are more opportunities for my performance art background and Sticky to intertwine...an experimental film perhaps?
Arjé: One of the things we really love about Sticky is the way you run your business, your community mindset and how that feeds into every aspect.
Grace: Everything I make is collaborative, creatively or in process. All the glass is hand blown by the team in Brooklyn, POC, LGBTQ and female identifying, and our mission is to support our community in a give-back model. We donate proceeds to organizations that secure the safety of trans bodies, Black lives and immigrant families.
Finding like-mindedness in my partnerships is important to me, I always try to find that connection. Collaboration for me means we both have something to bring to the table. I have my product or concept, and a partner adds to it and you magically create something together. It’s so much more meaningful. Arjé really gets that.
We can’t wait to set our Summer table for a new season of entertaining.
The Sticky Glass process and their beautiful shapes give a whole new appreciation for reimagining the simplest rituals and sharing them with family and friends around the table.
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