Toots Zynsky is internationally renowned for her exquisite and innovative work in glass. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she was among a core group of artists who joined Dale Chihuly in Washington State and participated in the founding and early development of the Pilchuck Glass School. In 1980, she became Assistant Director and then Head of the Hot Shop at the New York Experimental Glass Workshop in New York City (now known as Urban Glass) where she worked on pieces combining fused nets of glass threads with blown forms. She named her process “filet-de-verre,” layers of glass threads that are fused and thermo-formed inside a kiln.
During a sixteen-year residence in Europe, she established relationships with glass companies on Murano, enabling further development of her color combinations and unique techniques. Working in Amsterdam with a Dutch colleague, she created the sophisticated glass thread-pulling machine which she uses to this day. A six-month period in Ghana recording traditional music had significant impact on her art for many years. She opened a second studio in Paris during the 1990s before returning to the United States where she lives and works in Providence, RI.
Toots Zynsky has made a life’s work of traveling, learning, and working in glass. Continually evolving, her art is a constant exploration in color and composition expressed in distinctive, undulating forms. Her vessels are represented in over 100 international museum collections, including the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and The Met all in NYC, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs du Louvre, Paris, France; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (Renwick Gallery), the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Hokkaido Museum of Art, Japan. In 2015, Zynsky was awarded the Smithsonian Visionary Award, which is given annually to an American artist who has reached the pinnacle of sculptural art and design.
Even before receiving the Smithsonian Visionary Award, Toots Zynsky warmly welcomed a group of SWC members to an extensive tour of her studio in Providence. Since coming to the Smithsonian Craft Show in 2015 to receive her award from the Secretary of the Smithsonian, she has attended every subsequent show, served as both a Craft Show Juror and an Awards Judge, and consistently provided thoughtful and insightful comments on the state of craft art and education to guide our planning. During the Covid pandemic, she presented a brilliant Zoom program on her life and work, her vision, and artistic skills to the SWC. Perhaps most importantly, she has been a generous “Gift in Kind” donor, each year contributing a specially created piece of her stunning work to be sold at the annual SWC Visionary Benefit Auction, with proceeds donated to the SWC to fund grants to the Smithsonian. Thank you Toots for being a true SWC Champion!