Glassmaker Amber Cowan is the third recipient of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee Delphi Award. She was one of fifteen mid-career artists nominated by experts and ranked by curators for the 2023 Award and received the highest ranking. One of the curators stated, “Of the fifteen artists under consideration Amber Cowan is most likely to make the greatest contribution to the art of this century.”
Cowan has long been fascinated by the splendor of glassmaking. Her use of found glass in her work pays homage in many ways to the history of American glass manufacturing.
Cowan reworks broken and discarded glass called cullet, repurposing the vintage scraps left behind by 19th and 20th century American glass factories. She also uses a combination of techniques including the ancient style of soft Venetian glass sculpting, flame-working, and glass blowing. She collects some of her found glass herself and some is given to her by admirers who send her broken family items and heirlooms so that she can give them new life through her work.
Over the past 15 years, Cowan has studied at several schools across the country including the Corning Museum of Glass and Pilchuck Glass School She received her master’s degree in glass and ceramics at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University where she currently teaches the next generation of artists.
Cowan has received numerous awards including being selected in 2021 for the very prestigious United States Artists Fellowship, a $50,000 unrestricted award that recognizes artists for their contributions to the field. The awards come with a year of financial planning support, allowing the recipients to decide how best to support their lives.
The SWC Delphi Award is given annually by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee to one or more mid-career American artists who demonstrate distinction, creativity, and exceptional artistry in their work, and who are predicted by experts in the field to someday join that pantheon of artists who have reached the pinnacle of sculptural arts and design. Previous winners are Stephen Young Lee and Roberto Lugo. Cowan will receive her Delphi Award from Kathy Sommerkamp, President of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, at the 2023 Smithsonian Craft Show, to be held May 3 – May 7 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.