June 17 2020

(Above: Domine - 2020 - Featured as a livestream demo at the Corning Museum of Glass)

“There is a curiosity, which informs my work and what may be seen in my toy-like animals, and, most importantly, what they see when they look back at us.”

The whimsy on first glance of Claire Kelly’s glass art is unmistakable. Taken a step further, the sheer quality of her work and the How did she do that? factor begs a closer look. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Alfred University, multiple artist residencies, teaching at some of the finest craft programs in the world, and studying with acclaimed glass artist Toots Zynsky, Claire has pursued the highest technical skills and creative levels of her craft.

(Above: Parallax: Busy Forest - 2019 - approximately 15 ¼" x 16" x 36")

2019 was Claire’s first time exhibiting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show and to the delight of PMA Craft Show patrons, she is excited to be returning in 2020. “It’s always a pleasure to have the opportunity to spend time with the show attendees”, says Claire. “I came away from the experience full of energy and potential after meeting so many people who love my work. I love the amazing range of exhibitors and selection of different media. I also appreciate the scale of the show. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s large enough to offer a great range of wonderful exhibitors.”

(Above: Civil Twilight - 2019 - 22 ½" x 8 ½" x 4 ½")

Receiving the award for Excellence in Glass at the 2019 Show, Claire shared with us how honored she is to be recognized among such a high caliber of artists and added, “Being selected is just such a great validation; it helps me feel that I’m on the right path creatively.” She has been creating her current body of work since 2014, but has been working professionally in glass since graduating from college in 1996. Claire began her glass art journey at Alfred University and her work with various artists and institutions over the years has helped shaped her trajectory as an artist. She loves continually learning and finding new inspiration every day.

We couldn’t write this blog without asking Claire about the whimsical nature of her work and we found her thoughts to be not only descriptive, but also heartwarming. She describes her work as a form of therapy that helps process conflicting emotions in her mind, adding that her work purposefully looks like toys or children’s book illustrations as a way to talk about difficult subjects. She loves the effect her pieces have on others and sharing community that it creates. “The main reaction I get from people is that they feel joyful when they look at my work and that it makes them smile”, she says. “One of my favorite reactions was a woman who has one of my elephant sculptures and she talks to it. To me that’s just perfect because I do feel like they’re so engaging and have their own little personalities.”

(Above: Milieu - 2020 - 14" x 11 ½" x 8 ½")

2017 marked one of Claire’s proudest achievements with her work as she was selected to be an artist in residence at The Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, working with a specialty Italian glass which led to an invitation to demonstrate at the 2018 Glass Art Society Conference in Murano, Italy.

A selection of the programs she has taught at in the U.S. and abroad include Penland School of Crafts, Pilchuck Glass School, the Pittsburgh Glass Center, The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Centro Fundacion del Vidrio in Spain.

We are so pleased to share the joy of Claire’s glass art and invite you to explore her many creations HERE as well as at the 2020 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.

(Above: Recursive - 2020 - 10 ½" x 10" x 10")




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May 21 2019

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show has over a dozen different categories of fine craft represented among its 195 exhibitors. This week’s blog features the art of glassblowing, with last year’s prizewinner for Excellence in Glass, Thomas Spake.

Glass as a medium can take on many forms. For glassblower Thomas Spake, it can be a small ornament or a large-scale outdoor sculpture. As a first time artist at last year’s Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, Thomas took home the Cohn Family Trust Prize for Excellence in Glass. We’re thrilled that Thomas will be joining us again in 2019 and we were intrigued to learn more about his work process and the imagination behind it.

Thomas is inspired by the natural world around him and his one-of-a-kind pieces reflect that. His designs are influenced by the work of 19th century impressionist artists Klimt, Monet, and Van Gogh and their mixture of colors and patterns to express the idea of trees, water, and sky. “One thing that makes my work unique is that I’m using different colored glass chips and powders with five to ten colors to create one pattern”, says Spake. “Much like painting multiple layers to create patterns and textures as the impressionists did, I create textures in glass with the colors from underneath coming through and combine them with the colors on top for the finished product. So the technique is utilized not only for the final result, but also for the process of creating, similar to how the impressionists combined colors on and below the surface.”

Thomas’s work can be found in public spaces, corporate complexes, museum shops, private collections, and this November at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. He had a successful show last year, citing the high caliber of both the artists and the audience as contributing factors. “It was a wonderful experience, from the quality of work throughout the show to the knowledgeable patrons that attended. It was a very educated audience about the medium of working with glass in a non-traditional manner.”

Thomas grew up in Georgia, has lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the last two decades and has worked at his craft for over 25 years. Going to college on a basketball scholarship took a detour when a work-study program in the art department introduced him to glassblowing. That was it for Thomas who described seeing the whole process as a jaw-dropping moment. He never looked back, receiving a B.A. in art and glass from Centre College and eventually launching his solo career. Thomas is constantly inventing new patterns, techniques and designs and he hopes to scale his work even larger than it already is. He believes in the “10,000 hour rule” coined by journalist and thought leader Malcolm Gladwell. “Expect to put in 10,000 hours before you make any significant progress”, Thomas says. “You have to be passionate about what you’re doing and believe in yourself. Because in reality, the only person you have is yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.”

Stop by Thomas’s booth at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and see his mesmerizing and colorful work up close and in person. Maybe you’ll take something home with you!

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April 18 2018

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you eventually became interested in a career in arts and museums? 

I started out in healthcare, enrolling in a nursing program after high school, but fairly quickly realized nursing was not for me after questioning my bravery in the face of blood and understanding of biochemistry. While rethinking my path, I took a part-time job at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA and was hooked. From there I went to work for a cultural accessibility organization and have held roles with several other museums and nonprofits.

Currently, I am the Executive Director of the Wharton Esherick Museum where I lead the organization’s preservation efforts and explore new ways to continue the dialogue between Esherick’s creative legacy and contemporary artists and audiences.

When did your interest in the arts spark?

I was always interested in the arts. My family moved to Europe when I was eight years old and a lot of my formative years were spent exploring museums, castles, cathedrals, and city streets lined with beautiful architecture. It was a wonderful way to grow up and my love of the arts was cemented in those places.

What is the best craft you have ever bought?

While all of the artwork and handmade objects I own are treasured, the best craft pieces I have ever bought are my growing collection of hand blown glasses.

I recently married my long-time partner at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading. We wanted an informal and fun ceremony so the Hot Shop Manager guided each of us in making a matching pair of rocks glasses while our guests sipped champagne in the stadium seats, then we dimmed the lights and had the ceremony. Neither of us had tried glassblowing before and we loved the creative participation and sense of adventure. The glasses turned out pretty well too! The GoggleWorks Center has a fabulous store and now, every time I go, I pick up a few more glasses made by artists on site. 

How do you display this craft?

Though we only use the glasses we made during our wedding for special occasions, the glasses in the rest of the collection are used on a daily basis rather than just displayed. For me, this circles back to what is so wonderful about the artist Wharton Esherick’s work. He made furniture, utensils, light pulls, coat pegs, switch plates – even toilet seats – that were more than decorative. They were functional pieces of art that made everyday life a little more beautiful.

What’s coming up at the Wharton Esherick Museum that we should know about?

The Wharton Esherick Museum is in an exciting period of growth. We are planning now for the use of new spaces, including Esherick’s original home in the area before construction of the Studio, as well as his 1956 Workshop which was co-designed with Louis Kahn. With the addition of these spaces, the Museum is poised to expand its interpretive and educational activities with increased exhibit and programming space, improved accessibility and more active engagement with contemporary artists.

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April 27 2016

Despite wedding registry websites, anyone who’s been to a wedding recently will tell you finding that elusive perfect wedding gift is still tricky. Selecting an item that will forever remind them of your thoughtfulness is not a task to take lightly. We’ve compiled five memorable wedding gifts that will satisfy a couple’s basic needs in starting their life together.


A high quality cutting board is a must-have for any serious cook. Although some prefer plastic boards due to their cleanliness, recent studies have found that wooden cutting boards are easier to clean and accumulate less harmful bacteria than their plastic counterparts. 2015 Craft Show artist Phil Gautreau handcrafts his contemporary wood furnishings using locally-sourced and reclaimed wood, which has made him a favorite among the sustainably minded for years. Phil’s cutting boards not only look good, but are extremely durable, making your gift a staple of the couple’s kitchen for years to come.


Of course many couples already have basic kitchen flatware, however, the old IKEA set from college may not cut it anymore, especially after an influx of new gifts. This beautiful stainless steel set from YAMAZAKI is both functional and elegant, making it perfect for a dinner party or a midnight bowl of cereal. YAMAZAKI, one of the most respected makers of stainless steel products, started from humble beginnings in the early 1900’s in Japan. From there the company grew into one of the most recognizable names in fine flatware due to their specialized machinery which allows them to create high quality sleek designs.


Giving a nice set of wine glasses is a traditional wedding gift, but Joe Cariati’s barware selections will allow your gift to stand apart from the norm.  Joe produces a variety of barware, decanters, jars, and bottles, which can be paired based on color or functionality; each piece provides a unique contrast between the bright pastels of the glass and the vibrant wine hues. A seasoned glassblower, Joe has spent the last twenty years perfecting his glassware using a refined process inspired by an “incomparable synthesis of calculated pragmatism and essential beauty.” Using an elegant and minimalistic approach to glassblowing, Joe’s pieces add a level of colorful flair while accentuating the flavors of the wine. 


While many couples have an electric tea kettle, there is something uniquely comforting in making tea the old-fashioned way. A traditional teapot can keep water hot for a longer time and is a nice visual addition to any kitchen. We recommend two-time PMA Craft Show artist Rebecca Hungerford’s eccentric, handmade teapots. Rebecca’s designs are at times whimsical, but consistently reflect an innovative approach to pewtersmithing. If you’re looking to give a standout piece, we recommend her contemporary tea pots, which are designed with a naturalistic, instead of traditionalist, influence.


Giving a practical gift to a foodie couple can be especially stressful. What do you get someone that not only loves cooking, but cares deeply about the visual appeal of his or her recipes?  The answer may be a sushi plate set, which can either be a stand-alone present, or paired with sushi lessons or a guidebook. A sushi plate by Yoko Sekino-Bove from The Clay Studio, a Philadelphia nonprofit dedicated to the ceramic arts, is not only a practical serving plate, but also looks stunning thanks to its creative illustrations. Yoko’s pieces thematically fall in line with individualism and the importance of continuing to create manmade objects despite mass production and consumerism. And what better way to celebrate her message than by making your own sushi and serving it!

For more gift ideas please visit http://bit.ly/1q4G2FE

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November 04 2015

How did you start working with glass? What drew you to this medium?

I began taking classes and working with glass when I was a sculpture major at Rhode Island School of Design in the late ’70s. My studio was located adjacent to the school’s infamous Glass Program, then headed by Dale Chihuly. The material became a mysterious wonderment for me, as I witnessed cutting-edge, significant works being created by now-coffee-table name glass artists, who were then graduate students. At the time, the Studio Glass Art Movement was still in its formative years. Then, most glass artists were enamored with blowing, but few were exploring what could be done with the material in the kiln. Since I enjoyed working sculpturally with a variety of non-glass materials (clay, wax, bread, wire) and various molding processes, I was particularly drawn to works that were being created by fusing small glass particles in molds—a technique known as pate de verre, that I later embraced, have researched extensively and continue to employ as my primary studio process.

How does your material inspire your process?

In graduate school in the mid ’80s, my early casting experiments were many, rich with tons of technical glitches because I was exploring still relatively new territory. Much of my experimentation referenced my concurrent vocation as a pastry chef and cake sculptor/illustrator. I drew from the many similarities between baking and glass casting, such as making my work in a heated chamber (oven/kiln) with colorful particulates (sugar/glass) to create temporary or permanent objects. Overall, through the learning curve, I garnered great respect for a material that is technically complex, how to cultivate patience and to enjoy the advancement that comes with perceived failure. Happily, the curve continues…

Tell us about any challenges associated with and special considerations for working with glass.

The specific challenges I encounter concern the multitude of variables involved in the kiln-casting process. The steps are many, and the time to realize a simple finished object is days long at minimum and easily can extend to months. A truncated process sequence includes 1)hand-carving a form in wax to be transposed into glass; 2) the creation of a rubber mold around the wax (to preserve the original and create cast wax multiples); 3) fabrication of a refractory (heat-resistant) mold around the wax casting; 4) removal of the wax by steaming; 5) selective filling of the resulting mold cavity with multi-colored/sized glass particles; 6) precise melting and cooling of the molded glass particles in a kiln; 7) removal of the one-use mold material from the solidified glass object; 8) grinding and polishing the finished form with the use of various diamond abrasive machinery and hand tools. With a comparable skill level required to execute glass objects created via other methods, glass casting is one of the more arduous time-takers. 

What has surprised you about your own work, and/or people's reactions to it?

I find that because glass works created via the kiln-casting process are generally not shiny transmitters of light, but instead translucent and capable of holding light so as to appear to glow, that most of the viewers and collectors of my work respond with a bit more curiosity or surprise than they would to glass made by more familiar processes like blowing or stained glass. I enjoy my role as an artist—particularly informing and sharing my process with others.


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March 11 2015

Boyd Sugiki and Lisa Zerkowitz of Seattle’s Two Tone Studios, were the recipients of the 2014 Cohn Family Trust Prize for Excellence in Glass.

How did you first become interested in working in your medium?

Boyd started working with glass at Punahou High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lisa was introduced to glass at Santa Barbara City College.

What is special about the medium you work in? How does it inform the work you create?

Blown glass is special because it has the consistency of honey, yet it can be manipulated and frozen into shape; it is mesmerizing and amazing, what can be made out of this molten material.

What do you love about your workspace or studio? 

Our studio is a quiet environment on our property, behind our house. We love the commute, but are disappointed when we don’t get snow days. A friend built it and many artists contributed, so we are surrounded each day by their accomplishments, which we love.

What was the inspiration for a recent piece?

A recent visit to Japan, where we captured photos of colorful kimono, inspired new colors for our line. Can you share a personal highlight of the 2014 PMA Craft Show — other than winning the award, of course! Our booth was in the same section as the emerging artists’ booths. It was great to get to know some of them over the course of five days, as well as see their eagerness and excitement in being part of such a wonderful prestigious show!

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