I first met public glass artist extraordinaire Catherine Woods at an Awesome St. Pete meeting. Woods is one of the funders for the program, which awards $1,000 grants to local art projects, so I was aware right off the bat that she was more impressive than I was (I can barely fund my shopping list).
I had been an admirer of Woods work from afar, and after learning she was the actual artist behind it, I jumped at the chance to talk to her. Glass art fascinates me because a) it’s fascinating and b) it’s an art form I know little-to-nothing about. Luckily, my mother collects Czechoslovakian glass so I was able to wedge myself into the conversation Woods was having and, low and behold, I found out the artist was as cool as the artwork itself.
I haven’t meet a lot of glass artists; however, if they are all as nice as Woods, they should all do more press. Woods was chicly dressed, easy-breezy, appreciated dirty jokes; if she were a dude, I would date her. I found myself feeling more like a friend than a journalist.
However, I knew I was duty bound to get information for this blog, so I decided to get a little background first.
Woods grew up in Silver Spring, Md. (where she went to the same junior high school as Tori Amos). She got her degree in graphic design from the University of Maryland and then attended the Portfolio Center in Atlanta. She spent a chunk of time living in Chicago and St. Louis working in advertising for her professional life, but she continued to take night classes in metal, smithing, kiln and formed glass figure drawings.
So what brought her to St. Pete, where he career as a public glass artist really took off? Her response was simple:
“I wanted somewhere warm near water.”
Woods also was equally succinct in response to how one gets inspired to make giant glass installations.
“I always love what painter Chuck Close says,” Woods said. “Inspiration is for amateurs. All ideas want to be made. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself."
“I was working on a glass and metal tower that will be installed in Texas,” Woods said. “It’s a 23-foot tall steel tower of glass with four 10-by-3-foot glass panels which are painted, screened and laminated. I am working with Mayer of Munich, a studio that has been in existence since 1847.”
Before I knew it, lunch was over. Catherine Woods the person, I knew, was awesome. But what about Catherine Woods the artist? I realized I had forgotten to be a journalist again.
Out of desperation I asked Woods to provide me her artistic statement. She groaned.
“Oh no…” Woods said, laughing. “The dreaded artist statement. Do I have to?”
Even though my artistic side felt bad, my (poorly skilled) journalist side insisted, yes, I needed an artistic statement, and Woods’ response was as artful as her creations itself.
“One of my approaches is to take inspiration from natural elements and reinterpret them as iconic statements, reflecting universal human experiences. A butterfly emerging from its chrysalis becomes on abstracted representation for transformation and metamorphosis. This is a rich area for me; I am working on interpreting it in a variety of sculptural ways. I also enjoy working with color; color in glass is especially exciting and surprising. I love the visceral power it has to affect moods."
For more on Catherine Woods, visit her website at CglassStudio.com.