Glassblower finds beauty, purpose in sharp shards

Sally Prasch, Syracuse University's in-house glassblower, makes custom pieces for faculty and staff in the chemistry department.

Beautifully twisted tubes, clear beakers and shattered pieces of glass fill every inch of the Glass Shop, located in the basement of the Center of Science and Technology at Syracuse University. Littered shards at her feet, Sally Prasch stood behind a bright, orange flame, fostering the organic transformation of the molten glass in front of her.

"You look at science and without glass, science wouldn't be. You look at the barometer, you look at the telescope, you look at so many things," Prasch said. "But outside of science — I look at how glass is fragile, how it's sharp, how it's transparent, how it has so many beautiful qualities to it."

Photo: Mariana Domingues

Prasch, Syracuse University's scientific glassblower, began working with glass at the age of 13, seeking to understand both the artistic uses of glass and it's practical, scientific counterparts. In 2005, she joined the SU roster and began her work with the chemistry department within the College of Arts and Sciences — when a professor needs a custom piece, they bring their ideas to Prasch and she brings it to life. Sometimes, Prasch said, they'll bring a broken beaker or test tube and she'll do her best to revive it.

To Prasch, art and science are interconnected.

“You can’t do one without the other,” she said. “I also look at the artist mind and the scientist mind the same — both are reaching for the unknown.”

Prasch is able to express her artistic creativity with glass in her home studio in western Massachusetts, which she travels to from Syracuse each weekend. A lot of the work she does at home is very emotional, she said, adding that glasswork is how she coped with her father's death.

“When I left the room after he passed, my [facial] muscles felt like his muscles, and it made me realize that I am his daughter,” she said. “A lot of times you can work through emotional things by your creative work, and I think that’s important for every individual.”

Miriam Gillett-Kunnath is a research assistant and professor within the university's chemistry department. She met Prasch several years ago while designing specialty glassware for her graduate research.

"Sally brings glass and art techniques alive," Gillett-Kunnath said. "It is wonderful, energetic, exciting, innovative and of course zen!"

Glass offers Prasch the ability to travel all over the world — she has taught in Japan, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Ireland.

“I get to see a whole different culture, live with people and work in their studio,” she said. “And so, glass has given me that.”

In the end, it is not the final product that most excites her. Rather, it's the process in and of itself — actually creating the glass and collaborating with others to form a collaborative creation.

“You’re working closely with scientists, you’re working closely with other artists and that’s what I enjoy,” she said. “That energy between people.” 

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