Now on View: Mayme Kratz

Lauren Wolfer, Associate Curator of Special Collections & Archives

Mayme Kratz, American, b. 1958. Memory Cell with Pine Cone. Hand blown glass and pine cone, 1998.
Museum purchase with funds from the June E. Enoch Collections Fund, 2021.83. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

It’s glass season at FWMoA! The annual exhibition of Summer of Glass debuts some of the newest and boldest work in glass, including Mayme Kratz. Today, we’ll learn more about Kratz, who typically works with resin, and why she chose to dabble in the glass medium.

Mayme Kratz, American, b. 1958. Memory Cell with Pine Cone. Hand blown glass and pine cone, 1998. Museum purchase with funds from the June E. Enoch Collections Fund, 2021.83. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

I became intrigued with Kratz’ work while on a trip to Arizona; it seemed like every museum I visited had her work on display! Normally working with bright colored resin and beautiful patterns, the intricacy of her pieces is initially what drew me in. Kratz’ current work consists of time-consuming patterns made with natural elements she collects on nature walks; items like animal bones, dried flowers, seashells, or hand-created bird nests (there are laws against pursuing, hunting, taking, capturing, possessing, selling, purchasing, or transporting any migratory bird, nest, or egg). Kratz used similar methods with her resin work; but, because the process of creating glass work is different, a new outcome was produced. When she made glass pieces available to purchase, FWMoA couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add a couple to our ever-growing glass collection.

Kratz’ work on display in Summer of Glass at FWMoA. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

In 1998, Kratz was awarded an artist residency, or a program where an artist lives outside of their usual environment and spends time researching and producing work, at Pilchuck Glass School. Pilchuck, founded by master studio glass artist Dale Chihuly in 1971, was offering residencies to artists who had no previous knowledge of glass as an artform.

Often the art field can be viewed as competitive and cutting edge. Producing artwork to make a living is mentally and physically exhausting, let alone trying to beat out others for exhibits, sales, and popularity. In an ever-changing environment, there is pressure to create something never seen before, while also doing work that makes you happy. Not so in the glass community! If you’ve attended any of the recent Zoom calls with glass artists, galleries, or collectors we’ve hosted, it is a very supportive group who is excited about each other’s work and encouraging with new ventures. When Kratz arrived at Pilchuck, she was pleasantly surprised at the level of camaraderie and inspiration she received from other artists. Usually isolated in her studio for days, it was a new experience. The process alone requires a coordinated team effort! She was given a studio to work in, assistants, access to glass casting, a plethora of materials, and a cabin in the woods!

Kratz, who works with resin, creates large house-shaped sculptures and columns but found the transition to glass easy. When she first began her residency, her team insisted she create work similar to Paul Stankard, as seen in the display case with the Memory Cells; however, she pushed forward with her experimentation. While both resin and glass “contain” the piece of bone or object immersed within, the fiery hot glass burned it down to ash as opposed to the resin that simply held it. Stankard’s method of sculpting pieces out of glass allows the pieces to survive the immersion into the molten material rather than burn off, as opposed to Kratz’ method.

Glass work by Kratz and Paul Stankard, featured in FWMoA’s Summer of Glass. Photo courtesy of FMWoA.

Kratz takes pieces of forgotten life, like birds and plants, and contains it in a new way that makes it the star, sometimes quite literally, immortalizing it within the work forever. With the Memory Cell series, now on display through October 3rd, Kratz conducted glass experiments of putting animal bones, pinecones, and other things she’s collected into glass to see what would happen. In Memory Cell with Starling Foot, there is an actual starling foot in the glass! What’s even more intriguing is how it created a tiny air pocket, and the ashes of the foot can move within it. Kratz explains, “I knew the work I created would be about transformation. There was a poem that I carried with me written by David Whyte, titled The Journey. Several of the stanzas in the poem inspired a whole body of work and the ‘fire’ of the glass became part of the process.

Sometimes with

 the bones of the black

  sticks left when the fire

   has gone out

someone has written

 something new

  in the ashes

   of your life.

You are not leaving

    You are arriving.

The Memory Cells series is about letting go and moving forward, accepting change and honoring whatever remains after the fire has gone out.”

Mayme Kratz, American b. 1958. Memory Cell w. Starling Foot. Hand blown glass  with starling foot, 1998. Museum purchase with funds from the June E. Enoch Collections Fund, 2021.84. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

Stop in and see Mayme Kratz’ work displayed in Reflections: Glass at FWMoA of the Last Decade, on display until October 3rd!

To learn more about Mayme, check out her website:

Are you an artist interested in producing glass art? Apply for Pilchuck’s residency!

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