Rational Beauty

Thaddeus Wolfe

Thaddeus Wolfe’s glass sculptures are breathtaking. His unconventional work has a raw and unpretentious honesty. He pushes the optical qualities of glass—playing with the various degrees of opaqueness, transparency and translucency. The weathered feel reminds me of rock formations and geometric forms colliding.

Fittingly Wolfe’s most popular body of work is titled the Assemblage series, as his unique, shockingly time-consuming process requires multiple steps. He begins by carving a negative form inside a handmade Styrofoam mold to create a unique pattern. After days of executing the design he encases the mold with plaster. The mold is then scraped out and layers of molten, often colored, glass are carefully blown in its place. After the piece has cooled in the kiln, Wolfe removes the plaster to reveals the delicate content. The process requires him to destroy the mold— a dramatic act that makes each piece original. More days are still required as Wolfe methodically cleans, sands and polishes the work until he is satisfied. His objects are full of heroic wonder—love, tranquility, fear, anger—part of a rigorous process that allows for impromptu moments.

To see the results for yourself you can visit R & Company in New York which is the gallery that represents his work. He has been exhibited in New York at E.R. Butler and Co., Heller Gallery, Matter, and The South Street Seaport Museum, and in Chicago with Volume Gallery.

Without further ado, here’s my Q&A with Thaddeus Wolfe, whom I can best sum as being badass!

Job description: Glass object maker.

Why do you do what you do? As frustrating as glass can be, it’s still my favorite material.

How do you break through a creative block? I look back through past ideas in sketchbooks etc and ideas start popping up. Or I take a walk over to the park near my studio, look at all the trash and stuff on the ground, and by the time I’m back I have a fresh perspective.

Education: BFA at CIA (The Cleveland Institute of Art).

Mentors: Josiah McElheny, Jeff Zimmerman.

World-saving mission: I’m not out to save the world. Follow the golden rule.

Studio chair: Some shitty chromed metal chair with a vinyl seat that is is Costco brand. I don’t think its from Costco though. it has this little two-step ladder that folds out of the front so you can use it as a step stool too.

Studio Soundtrack: 70s stuff like The Bee Gees, ELO, The Byrds and David Bowie. Ty Segall is pretty awesome too.

Most useful tool: BMK-1 glass lathe, for cutting, grinding, and polishing glass.

Favorite space: Any forest during mushroom season.

Favorite design object: Threaded pipes and threaded anything is a pretty brilliant invention.

Guilty Pleasure: Watching dumb TV shows or Netflix. I just saw an episode of Miami Vice with Bruce Willis guest starring as the bad guy. It was a total waste of time.

Underrated: The Glen Jones radio program.

Overrated: The Internet , Facebook, Instagram et al. I would say New York too, but I haven’t lived anywhere else in so long I can’t confirm that.

What did you learn the hard way? Everything takes longer than I think.

Has your work ever got you into trouble? Barely.

If you could cross over into other profession… what would you do? Be a painter and ceramicist. If I had to get practical, a plumber or electrician.

Dream project: Build a cabin in the Adirondacks.

Where's home? Beautiful Bushwick.


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Assemblage / 2015
Mold blown glass
Volume Gallery

Assemblage / 2014
Vessel in ochre with cornflower blue markings hand-blown, cut and polished glass. R & Company

“To break through a creative block, I take a walk over to the park near my studio, look at all the trash and stuff on the ground, and by the time I’m back I have a fresh perspective.”—Thaddeus Wolfe

Assemblage / 2014
Vessel in indigo purple hand-blown, cut and polished glass. R & Company