Studio Check-in with Sarah Gilbert

Vetri is excited to present new works by Tacoma-based artist Sarah Gilbert. In this series, Sarah investigates portraiture, privacy, and narrative by combining hand-drawn imagery with engraved and cut glass. We checked in with Sarah to get a sneak peek at this new body of work and learn about her studio practice.

Sarah says of this series and studio practice:

As a working member of the glass community for two decades now, and as part of the hot shop crew at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, I’ve been able to see a lot of different ideas come to life through this incredible material. At the museum, we primarily support other artists in creating their visions in glass. This has provided me with the opportunity to meet so many different artists and see so many different techniques, processes, and approaches to making work in glass. Sometimes I feel like I really have fulfilled my lifelong goal of being a backup singer—I just blow glass instead of subjecting the world to my vocal stylings.

Through the world of glass, I’ve met and made many friends and collaborators whose skills I continue to learn from and will value for life. As anyone who has worked with glass might confirm, this material teaches and humbles on a daily basis.

About 10 years ago, I was looking to incorporate my love of drawing and narrative storytelling into glass and started playing around with engraving. Talk about trial and error. But engraving has truly enabled me to hone my own voice and style. In fact, the more I learn about engraving, the more I realize how closely the process fits the way my brain works.

I can make things in the hot shop—it is loud and hot and fast, and there is a team of people working together. I can then take the glass home and spend hours engraving the imagery—engraving is slow and methodical, and a form of mediation for me. I love that engraved imagery is so unique to each maker and you can see the artist’s hand in the marks they make.

In the “RGB_memories” series, all of the drawings are taken from photo booth photo strips.  I love that the photo booth feels like a private space that always resides within a very public space, giving people a sense of false privacy that tends to loosen inhibitions.

The ideas of narrative, control, and interpretation extend to each step of my making process. I am making the sheet glass in the hot shop, cutting the designs in the sheet glass, drawing the imagery, as well as making the frames they live in. Making the sheet glass myself allows me to control how it is made—the thickness and color density—and this helps me to control how the engraving effects the image. The engraving itself further distorts the image, forcing the viewer to interact with the work, moving around to find clarity.

As this series grows, it is moving away from the rectangular proportions that these photographs are typically presented in. I have been exploring wood bending to reinvent the shape of my frames, further removing the image from its original context, to create a collage of stolen moments. In addition, new pieces are pushing the scale of the work and connecting multiple pieces to create patterns wherein the smaller parts create a larger whole.

Aside from my time in the hot shop, most of my work is done out of my home studio, where I’ve converted my basement and garage into a space for drawing, engraving, and now woodworking as well. I recently purchased a table saw—it is amazing how a new tool can open so many possibilities!

As someone who processes life through making things, this space has become very important to me and I really love spending time there. I feel lucky, especially these days, to have this space in my life. It is more and more a part of how I get through every day.

Currently, my work can be seen in two different shows at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma: Transparency An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition and Counterparts Glass + Art Elements. I also have work at the Whatcom Museum in a show called Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest.

RGB Memories (Leaves)
RGB Memories Flowers
RGB Memories Jack and Carol
RGB Memories Bowie
RGB Memories Size 9