We had the good fortune of connecting with Steven Ciezki and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Steven, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think about risk as a learning experience. Whether I am traveling to a new country as a visiting artist, or investing time and energy into studio experiments, I always run into obstacles. I have learned to approach these challenges with a positive attitude in order to find better solutions and come to better conclusions. Over time, I am able to quickly filter out what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs further investigation. Taking risks are the building blocks of my life and career because they produce so much progress and development.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art is rhythmic and the process is meditative. I am inspired by Venetian goblet stemware, stone stacking, and the shapes of cities. In addition to a background in traditional drawing, glassblowing, and photography, I am the author and illustrator of the glassblowing technique book “Life on the Rails”. During a two year book tour from 2017-18, I visited over 30 studios in 11 states and five countries as a visiting artist and instructor.

I started drawing at a young age. My art teachers at TF North High School helped build my portfolio which got me accepted to the art program at Illinois State University. After two years of studio art classes, I applied to the BFA program and was declined twice before being accepted the third time. This was not easy, but it pushed me to make better work.

John Miller’s glass program at ISU continued to facilitate my professional career. He encouraged me to apply to summer craft workshops and presented avenues to the gallery world with student exhibitions in Chicago. It made me realize that there is not a one-stop shop to success. I needed to go out and find it for myself.

During the summer of 2011, I was awarded scholarships to the Pilchuck Glass School and the Appalachian Center for Crafts to study glassblowing techniques with Boyd Sugiki and Lisa Zerkowitz. Soon after, I drove to North Carolina for an internship with Pablo Soto. After three months, I had a sketchbook full of ideas and trained hands to finally bring them to life.

I graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in glass and drawing in 2012. Immediately after, I jumped on a plane to study with Dante Marioni at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. When I returned home, I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to start work with Jason Chakravarty at Neusole Glassworks, a nonprofit organization. Neusole was a place to reflect on the past several years and establish myself as a professional artist.

Once or twice a year, I was working for, the now retired, Tom Riley of Riley Galleries. He showed my work at Wheaton Arts, SOFA Chicago, and Art Palm Beach. My time working for Tom introduced me to a new professional level. From packing and shipping to lighting and presentation, I was learning new facets of the gallery world every step of the way.

In 2014, I received a month-long residency at the Corning Museum of Glass to experiment with color theory ideas and new glassblowing techniques. This momentum led to my first solo show in Louisville, Kentucky. I would soon find myself looking towards the Southwest for new opportunities.

Jason Chakravarty and I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where we found opportunities to make art and teach classes at Circle 6 Studios and the Mesa Arts Center. These classes led to the creation of my glassblowing technique book titled Life on the Rails. I published it in 2017 and traveled the world on a book tour. After visiting glass studios in Turkey, Belgium, and all over the United States, the tour continued to Canberra Glassworks in Australia. I was the first international artist chosen to receive a six month Art Group Creative Fellowship. I experimented with the surface of hand blown glass plates by treating them like canvases. I would sand carve imagery through some layers and paint or draw on others.

The book tour concluded in 2018 with invitations to teach in Japan at universities in Tokyo and Osaka.

On this journey, I found the woman of my dreams, we bought some land, and are now building a home and studio in Phoenix, AZ. COVID has thrown every challenge imaginable into the mix but I have found this time to be very reflective and meditative for my life and work.

Over time, I learned that the repetitive motions used to blow glass are not good for the body. I started doing yoga in 2018 and began to realize where I store most of my tension. This path led me to seek out information regarding wellness for a glassblower. With the help of an athletic trainer, hand therapist, and information from doctors on social media, I have been putting together a self-care program. This resource will include information on stretching, strength training, nerve glides, and foam rolling for glass makers. Part of this is immediately available on my Instagram guide @ciezkiglass and the rest will be available in a section of my new book “Find Your Center: Glassblowing Techniques”. Publishing date still TBD.

Finally, it is expensive to rent time in the hotshop. The process requires one or two highly skilled assistants. My overhead begins at $200 an hour. If I work on a piece for three hours in the hotshop, the price for that piece starts at $600. If I sell this through a traditional gallery, I share 50% of the retail sale with the gallery, doubling the price to $1,200. This is only one part of a multifaceted process. This does not include the time to design it, coldwork and finish it, professionally photograph it, edit the images to maintain a portfolio, professionally pack it, and ship it. Glass breaks too! I need to learn quickly from my mistakes. Regardless, a life dedicated to glass is fulfilling in so many ways. I love the material and love the community even more. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love sharing my personal passions with family and friends: art, glassblowing, outdoor activities, good food, and great conversation. When friends visit, the first stop is usually the local glass studio, Flux Studio LLC in Colorado, where we’ll do a lesson or blow glass together. Next we’ll take a trip to the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and/or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We love exploring on foot, so we’ll take walks around the many parks in the area with our adopted Denver dog Boyd. We also enjoy popping in-and-out of the gallery scene along the River Arts District and Cherry Creek. Depending on the season, we often take day or overnight trips to the mountain to snowboard or hike. Keystone or Copper Mountain are great day trips whereas Breckenridge and Vail make a better multi-day excursion. If it’s summer, we can even head to Colorado Springs for some natural rock climbing.

Denver has an amazing scene for microbreweries and distilleries and friends often want to check those out. The best food though is right at home! We love cooking and entertaining. Our favorite nights start with hand-crafted cocktails in hand blown glass cups, followed by appetizers and wine, and then a long leisurely dinner that everyone cooks and eats together. Whenever possible, we try to shop local for our groceries, and love walking to Pete’s or Oliver’s to buy our produce for the night.

Website: www.stevenciezkiglass.com

Instagram: @ciezkiglass

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-ciezki-2766701a6/

Facebook: @ciezkiglass

Image Credits
Evert Van Laere Canberra Glassworks

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