Philadelphia-based assemblage artist Amber Cowan creates magnificent, monochromatic dioramas out of found pieces of vintage glass. Cowan gets her glass materials primarily from now-closed glass factories around the U.S. Interestingly, glass factories used to specialize in particular colors, so each of her one-color pieces has most of its materials made by the same source.
Using a wonderfully-joyous mix of figural and decorative elements and glass beads, Cowan’s dioramas each tell a story of abundance (and a bit of excess). I love how no matter how many times I look at her work, there’s always something new to discover. I’m also very attracted to the monochrome (or mostly monochrome) nature of the dioramas. I think a broader mix of colors would shorten the depth of her pieces.
Cowan also uses the techniques of flameworking, hot sculpting, and glassblowing to turn broken and unusable vintage glass into new objects, often on a large scale. Her recycled glass origin story is a great one:
“When I began working with this type of glass it started out of a financial need for more inexpensive material. I was in graduate school and found a barrel of old pink glass behind the furnaces of the studio. This barrel was filled with a run of broken pink easter candy dishes with rabbits and chicken lids. The color was beautiful and technically it melted very similarly to the glass I was trained to work. This almost coincidental discovery transformed into a passion for history, industry and a new love affair with the material to which I was already in love. I began researching the rich history of the stories and formulations of the colors I was finding. These barrels of color are often the last of their run and my work will essentially give the formulas their final resting place and visually abundant celebration of life.”– Amber Cowan Artist Statement
You can see all of Amber Cowan’s magnificent dioramas on her website (right here on WordPress!) and on Instagram.
April 28, 2023 at 6:21 am
Although these are too visually fussy (and havens for dust) for me to covet owning one, I do think they are lovely pieces. They are almost like those children’s books where you have to find specific items or objects on the page. They are fascinating to look at and the assemblages are beautifully curated into pleasing compositions. I also like the idea of taking old glass and making it new while maintaining its history.
May 4, 2023 at 8:41 am
I’m not sure I could make room in my house for one of them (the dusting alone would be a big undertaking), but I so love their play with color and texture and their little stories.
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