Amber Cowan Bio

My current pieces are made by re-working discarded, up-cycled or unwanted pressed glassware produced by some of the best known, but now-defunct glass factories in America. Simultaneously subversive and patriotic, the objects explore the texture of material seduction and recount the history of U.S. glass manufacturing; tracing its rise, glory, demise, and influence on society. 

In my practice, I rework objects currently relegated to the aesthetic dustbin of history. I reincarnate them into ornate abstractions that pay homage to the glass itself but with a reminiscent sentimentality for times past. While still containing the original spirit of the vintage glass, the well-defined characteristics of color and pattern often appear transformed into materials other than glass. Porcelain, wood, marble and even human flesh are subtly roused in the material. Seen as animate structure the forms become somewhat menacing in scale and texture. Using repetition and viral accrual, I aim for the work to be viscerally sensual, teetering between beautiful and sinister. I use the human body as well as the natural world for sculptural reference mimicking gestures that arouse sensations felt within ourselves. I use comparisons in these worlds the way the wind blows grasses in unison over a field, to the experience of a chill or tingling through the body when someone shows us unexpected kindness or affection.

I am not only interested in representing the common but forgotten patterns of American pressed glass but also the histories associated with the particular wares. I work to uncover forgotten histories associated with the patterns and colors I use for each sculpture. In my white works for example, I use a milk glass pattern originally acquired through the redemption of S&H Green Stamps, a reward and return system based on spending. This glass was considered an affordable American luxury. Nowadays, these sets, and milk glass in general is flooding thrift-store shelves as subsequent generations are replacing these “old-fashioned” patterns for more contemporary dining ware. Although the pieces in their original state will no longer be looked at as objects of desire, their reincarnated life tells an honest story about their past glory and forlorn future.

Bio: Amber Cowan


Amber Cowan is an artist and educator working out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Originally from York, Pennsylvania, Ms. Cowan first began working with glass at Salisbury University in Maryland, where she received her Bachelor in Fine Art (BFA) in 3-Dimensional Design, with a concentration in Glass. In 2011, she received her Master in Fine Art (MFA) in Ceramics/Glass from Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

Before returning to graduate school, she lived in New York City where she worked as an instructor of glassblowing and flamework at One Sixty Glass and Urban Glass in Brooklyn. Her professional experience includes teaching alongside (and as the teaching assistant) to such artists as Lucio Bubacco, Michiko Sakano, Paul J. Stankard, and Gianni Toso.

Ms. Cowan was awarded the 2012 International Procter Fellowship at The Australian National University, The Steve Stormer Award from Temple University, and a residency at The Toledo Museum of Art for the Toledo Workshop Revisited Residency.

She was a lecturing artist at the 2011 International Flameworking Conference at Salem Community College. Her lecture included information on the current state of flameworking in the university system, and she demonstrated flameworking techniques using recycled cullet. Ms. Cowan is currently a faculty member of the glass department at Tyler School of Art and her work is represented by Heller Gallery in New York City.

Amber Cowan turned 30 on 11/11/11.