"Out of the Vault: Soundtracks" with Susan Taylor Glasgow

Making art from glass is time-consuming. It is an undertaking that can unfold over hours, but more often takes place over days, weeks, or even months. A great music playlist can be essential to keeping focused and staying creative. These playlists were the starting point for our exhibition Out of the Vault: Soundtracks. MOG curator Katie Buckingham sat down with Susan Taylor Glasgow to learn more about her work and creative process.

Susan Taylor Glasgow. Photo by Nathan J. Shaulis.

Katie Buckingham: I have really been enjoying the playlist you shared. Do you find yourself listening to music as you work?

Susan Taylor Glawgow: I automatically turn the radio on when I go downstairs, usually to a channel that combines rock and popular music. I am not actually looking for a song I like – if it’s too good of a song, it distracts me from working, and I’m likely to start dancing instead.

KB: So, the right studio playlist is good music, but not great?

STG: That’s right. I mean, if Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” came on, I’d get no work done, I love it. So, the radio is perfect, because most of the time it’s just background music, but every so often there is a song that inspires me to take a dance break. Then I get back to work.

KB: I love that! Where do you make your work?

STG: Columbia, Missouri, which I affectionately call the middle of nowhere. The next closest glass facility to me is in St. Louis, so I can feel pretty isolated here in Columbia. For getting stuff done, it works pretty well. But for exchanging ideas and collaborating, I have to travel to do that.

Artist in her studio. Photo by Keith Borgmeyer Photography, LLC.

KB: Where do you look for inspiration when you make your work?

STG: Often my inspiration comes from a previous project that I've been working on. I’m always thinking about how to refine a concept or perfect a technique. That’s why I like to work in a series. Making something just once is too much pressure. Also, it’s often just unattainable to infuse all the ideas that I have for something into one object. Working in series allows me to home in on a vision.

Susan Taylor Glasgow (American, born 1958). Queen Anne's Lace Handbag, 2010. Glass and mixed media; 9 3/4 × 5 3/4 × 1 1/4 in. (24.8 × 14.6 × 3.2 cm). Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation.

KB: I'd love to hear the story of Queen Anne's Lace Handbag. When I look at it, I want to pick it up off the pedestal and wear it.

STG: I started the Handbag series in 2001. I had just completed a two-and-a-half-month residency at Pilchuck Glass School, and I wanted to make something I could carry at their annual auction. That was my first Handbag. It was a cross-body bag with a long strap. It made me realize straight away that the strap was a sculptural problem. Do you hang it? How does it flow with the rest of the purse? Queen Anne's Lace Handbag was the moment I finally figured it out – the handle and handbag are all one form, rigid, as if it had just been set down on the table.  

KB: The longer you look at the piece, the more you appreciate how many different materials it took to make it. I know that “sewing” glass is one of your signature techniques. What inspired you to approach glass in this unique way?

STG: I started sewing glass to honor the domestic skills – sewing, cooking, housekeeping-type things, that I learned from my mother. A lot of what I make is about “women’s work,” celebrating the beauty of femininity, but also the complexity of our society’s expectations for what skills women should have and the lengths we’re expected to go to be beautiful.

Susan Taylor Glasgow (American, born 1958). Comfort Second, 2011. Glass and mixed media; 15 1/8 × 16 5/8 × 8 1/4 in. (38.4 × 42.2 × 21 cm). Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation.

KB: How do you address uncertainty while you work? Do you ever feel stuck in your creative process?

STG: For me, it is just important to be in the studio. Even if I am feeling kind of anxious or uncertain about the next step or the next concept, the key is to just get in the studio. If I feel stuck, I will start doing something mundane, like reframing a piece of art. The act of getting things done helps an idea to pop up.

KB: Yes. And what's on the horizon for you and your work?

STG: I started a new series just before COVID that has to do with the relationships, conflict, and the emotional impact of meeting the right or wrong person in your life. I’ve created about 15 pieces in the series, but I’m finding it challenging to show them in a group. Viewers are having a strong reaction, related to their own relationships. The pieces tend to bring feelings and emotions up.

KB: Oh yeah?

STG: As an artist, that’s what you hope your work does – inspire some emotion. I am working on continuing this new series. I think that showing the work as a group will result in a wide range of reactions from viewers. And isn’t that what art should be about? Helping you tap into a feeling that is hard to put into words.

Check Susan Taylor Glasgow’s playlist on Spotify and visit us at Museum of Glass to see more of our collection featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks.

About the Artist

A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Susan Taylor Glasgow migrated south with the geese one fall and studied Design at the University of Iowa. Now a resident of Columbia, Missouri, Glasgow’s studio is a wonderful old 1930s house in downtown Columbia that she and her husband rescued from demolition. She is a 2002 recipient of the Pilchuck Glass School Emerging Artists grant, a Wheaton Village fellow in fall of 2003, and, most recently, a resident artist at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Glasgow has been the fortunate recipient of many awards and has work included in the permanent collections of the Carnegie Museum, Chrysler Museum, Museum of American Glass, and several others.