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Vail gallery displays glass art

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
AE Trenchard glass exhibit1 KA 01-15-08
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VAIL, Colorado ” Her glass tells stories.

Stories like “What Lips my Lips Have kissed, and Where, and Why,” the name of a piece about poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Pictures floating in glass blocks offer a glimpse into the 20th century feminist’s life. The piece will be on display this month at Pismo Fine Art Glass in Vail as part of an exhibit from artist Stephanie Trenchard.



With a title borrowed from a poem, “What My Lips Have Kissed” consists of glass chapters stacked like a Totem pole. A portrait of Millay begins the tale, followed by a chair representing her Bohemian lifestyle in New York’s Greenwich Village and a dinner representing sensuality and the body (Millay was famous for her many love affairs).

Continuing the narrative, the reader finds a gold finch representing nature ” “I think of her sort of like a bird in flight as a poet,” Trenchard explains. In conclusion, a sad moon face hints at Millay’s struggle as an artist and her bleak death (she fell down the stairs of her home and broke her neck).



Inspiration from the piece comes from a chapter in the artists’ life; Trenchard said she first read Millay’s poems as a budding artist at Illinois State University.

“I wanted to tap back into that romantic idealism that I had that really fueled my decision to become an artist,” she said.

The piece is an example of glass as poetry. Trenchard hints at a storyline but leaves plenty of room for interpretation.



Her style is rare in the world of glass art, according to Eva Pobjecka, gallery director for Pismo.

“Usually when we talk about glass, people have associations with decorative vessels, very well-done sculptures but we don’t find many stories and Stephanie’s work is very narrative,” she said. “I would say it’s a very poetic work.”

Trenchard felt a rush as she pulled her first attempts at glass art out of the kiln. It was about 10 years ago. Trenchard was mainly a painter then, but found her husband’s love of glass art contagious. The couple had been renting a small space in Wisconsin for a glass studio, and Trenchard wound up dabbling in the medium.

“I made four pieces initially, sort of on a whim, when we took them out of the kiln, they were sensational,” she said. “I was so tickled. I fell in love with it that first time and I just knew there was no way they wouldn’t be successful.”

Over time, those early experiments ” an apple, a dove, a Buddha and a vase ” gave way to intricate still-lifes in solid glass.

Trenchard uses a method called sand casting. She starts with a sketch, then sculpts small figures and objects out of glass. Her free-hand scupting process involves shaping a glob of glass that’s 1,200 to 1,500 degrees F with sculpting tools. Next, she paints the figures and fires them in a kiln.

Now Trenchard makes a glass casing to surround the figure. She forms the shape out of wood, then creates a mold by indenting the wood into sand. She sprinkes carbon and ground-up glass powder in the mold to create a background effect. Finally she pours hot glass into the mold, places the figure inside, and seals it with another layer of glass. Each piece takes a month to create.

Today, Trenchard and her husband, Jeremy Popelka keep a glass studio in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

The exhibit at Pismo will feature eight or nine glass pieces, Trenchard said. The largest of those is a Totem that’s 42 inches tall by 14 inches wide. Pieces sell for $2,000 to $15,000.

Trenchard will be on hand to elaborate on the stories her pieces tell.

“I usually give a lot of hints with the title, what I’m meaning,” she said. “If they want to hear the story, I’m happy to tell them but some people aren’t interested and some people don’t want that agenda laid on the piece. They want to interpret it for themselves.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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