Deborah Czeresko is inspired by the physicality of glass. Whether it’s a vase that looks like sunny-side up eggs or a hyperrealistic sculpture of a turkey, she uses representational forms to make a statement about societal issues, and more specifically, the fight for women’s equality. “My work has both a conceptual and a physical function that addresses gender and power,” she tells Business of Home.
Growing up in northern New Jersey, Czeresko first started toying with glass in the mid-1980s after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in psychology. “I took my first glass class at an experimental workshop in downtown New York,” she says. “Then I headed to Tulane University in New Orleans, where I received an MFA in art and glass, before returning to New York.”
Her first collection—which dates back to the early 1990s—offered an assortment of sculptural vessels garnished with large glass embellishments. “It was a series of very thick, clear blown pieces with big glass applications the size of paperweights that were applied hot to the surface,” says Czeresko. “They had a very soft optical quality despite their scale, which created a juxtaposition with the traditional aesthetic of cut crystal.”
All of Czeresko’s creations are individually hand-blown and fabricated at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn using classic Venetian-style techniques. “Each piece is its own life force because of the maker’s hand and the conditions in which it was created,” she says. “I’m in dialogue with the glass—so each one is fun, fluid and spontaneous.”
Form reigns supreme for Czeresko, who relies on realistic shapes to challenge gender stereotypes, especially within the field of glassmaking. “The foundation of my creative process is finding connections between the physicality of glassmaking and the androgyny of my personal experience,” she says. “My designs and art interpret realistic objects in glass and activate the layers of meaning behind those things.”
After decades dedicated to steadily developing her craft, Czeresko entered the zeitgeist in 2019 when she won the first season of Netflix’s cult favorite reality competition show Blown Away. “It really flexed my creative muscle and showed me that everything I make has a unifying thread,” she says of the series. “On top of that, I’ve been recognized thousands of times on the street. Wherever I go, there is a community of people that I continually connect with. I’m feeling the love from the fans, and it feels amazing.”
Last month, she teamed up with New York design gallery Colony to fabricate a limited-edition line of vases designed by Jean Lin. The collection, called Phila Terra, spans 100 one-of-a-kind vessels in hues ranging from deep orange to seafoam green and aqua blue, with proceeds going to the Environmental Defense Fund and the Rainforest Foundation US. “Each vase in the series has an obvious purpose [to hold botanicals] but also the hidden function of spotlighting and funding environmental causes,” Czeresko says. “I love this way of looking at work.”
Currently, Czeresko is applying her distinct perspective to a project for Percent for Art, a city-funded program that commissions large-scale public art installations. “It will go inside a public school in the Bronx,” she says of her design. Reflecting upon the entrenched structures and traditionally patriarchal gatekeepers in the art world at large, and in her niche in particular, she says, “I want my presence and voice to help change the historical paradigm of power within the field of glassblowing.”
If you want to learn more about Deborah Czeresko, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.
Homepage photo: Deborah Czeresko at work on one of her hand-blown glass creations at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn. | Melina Tavares