On Wings of Light
Written by Brett Levine
Photo by Michael J. Moore
For glass artist Amy Soverow, creation has always been about practical experimentation. “From my earliest days in the studio, everything was a learning opportunity,” she says. “Rather than simply tell me if something would work or not, Longin Soverow, my husband, who is an incredible glass artist himself, and my dear friend, the late Cam Langley, who was also amazing creatively, would allow me to approach my practice however I imagined might work best. If it didn’t, then and only then they would explain how and why I hadn’t gotten the results I had expected.” This trial by fire—quite literally, in a hot glass studio—meant that Soverow had the opportunity to fine-tune her approach to materials and methods. But she wasn’t simply bringing a creative method into her practice. “I actually have a master’s in research methodology, so for me, part of creativity involves understanding how best to approach the expressive issue at hand,” she explains.
Soverow brings a nuanced appreciation for the intersections of technology and the arts to everything she does. “You have to remember that some glass screens—the computer and the phone—have changed everything,” she points out. At times, she expresses how uneasy, even difficult, the relationships between technology and creativity can seem to some people. “I wonder a lot about the role of the artist,” she says. “I spend a lot of time thinking about intentionality—what an artist means with their work. Working in glass, at times it is fascinating to consider how little glass has made it into the fine arts mainstream.”
This apparent absence seems unusual considering how ubiquitous Soverow’s works are. She has collaborated on pieces that will adorn the restored Lyric Theatre. A significant collaboration is also installed at Saint Vincent’s East. Most recently, a large-scale, site-specific work titled Freedom Sculpture, designed collaboratively by Soverow, her husband, and sculptor Brad Morton, was unveiled in UAB Hospital’s North Pavilion atrium. There, soaring several stories in the grand space, a series of hand-cast, hand-formed birds soar in an expanding spiral towards the sky.
The project came about in part because of her reputation for being able to produce works that can be realized as part of larger-scale building projects. “In the studio I take the approach that we can do almost anything. Ours is not a glassblowing studio, though,” she explains. “Instead, I work in art glass, enameling, plate glass, sandblasted glass, and melted, cast, and high fired refractory mold works. The majority of the work is commissioned, although we also do a lot of restoration work.” Soverow prefers clients to be closely involved with the creative process. “I want my clients to always have ownership of their creations,” she says. “Once we have established the colorways, and the general approach, then true creativity can occur. Craft has always been about collaboration, particularly studio-based works, so having the client involved in the creative process means that they feel a strong sense of ownership and of appreciation for the finished work.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge Soverow encounters is operating a creative studio. “Keeping the doors open means being smart about business, but being committed to creativity also means that you can focus on it one hundred percent of the time,” she says. To find personal balance between large-scale opportunities and her own creative expression, Soverow has been making a series of small glass discs featuring a smiling sun on one side and the phrase “light and love” on the other—her Light and Love Project. As she puts it, “Everybody needs more light and love.”
Standing on the balcony at UAB Hospital’s North Pavilion, gazing up at the birds soaring into the sky, one could almost forget that it was hard work, dedication, and inspiration that brought Amy Soverow to be standing on a photographer’s case having her portrait taken. She brings a unique combination of pragmatism and humor to a field known for being as difficult as it is forgiving. At times, it seems as if even she can’t believe quite how this happened. “I got a BA in studio art in 2004 in graphic design,” she shares. “I had already been working in glass for 10 years. But apart from that, I think that everything I had done prepared me for what it was I was about to do. I always tell my students, ‘Don’t think you can’t be computer literate.’ I’ve worked with media, images, and copy for more than 30 years.”
“Hands down, please,” the photographer asks, and you can almost feel the swirl of the birds in the atrium as, captured in glass, they open up to the sky.