It’s interesting to contemplate why Claire Kelly’s colorful and expertly patterned toy-like animals are so appealing, but perhaps more curious to imagine is what theywould see in us. Much of her recent work centers on elephants because of their unique role as a beloved childhood toy, a popular decorative figure with a strong history in glassmaking, and a perilously threatened species.
In work that examines the connections humanity has with animals and our larger relationship to the world, the artist has created a series of fantastic microcosms that bring a consciousness to their decorative status. As a story about the fragility and conservation of these small worlds is told, their role in a grander scheme is revealed.
“We live in a time when our smallest decisions can affect our environment in unpredictable ways. As a conscientious inhabitant, I am constantly weighing my choices and attempting to choose the lesser evil. My works are a gentle mirror allowing us to examine our contradictory world.”
Graduating with a BFA from Alfred University in 1996, Kelly subsequently worked collaboratively with Anthony Schafermeyer from 2000 to 2008 as Schafermeyer/Kelly Glass. In 2008, she moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to assist glass artist Toots Zynsky with her work. During this time, Kelly developed her own sculptural series integrating traditional Venetian glassblowing and various cold working processes. Greatly influenced by the unconventional forms and patterning of mid-century Venetian Masters such as Napoleone Martinuzzi and Carlo Scarpa as well as contemporary masters Dick Marquis and Zynsky, Kelly works with cane and murrini techniques in a unique exploration of line, pattern, and color.
In spring of 2017, Kelly worked as Artist in Residence at the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, where she created a new body of work using specialty 104 COE glass from Effetre, a glass company based in Murano, Italy. The artist has recently been awarded residencies at Salem Art Works Salem, New York,and at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, to further her processes and designs.
From October 12 through December 10 new work was exhibited, and Kelly presented a lecture and demonstration at Duncan McClellan Glass Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida, in a show with friend and hot glass artist Jen Violette titled Vibrant Perspectives. Penland Gallery, Penland, North Carolina, Vetri gallery, Seattle, Washington, and Montague Gallery in San Francisco, California, also represent Kelly’s work.
A self described “unexpected instructor,” Kelly has taught workshops at Penland School of Crafts, Pilchuck Glass School, the Pittsburgh Glass Center, The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Centro Fundacion del Vidrio in Spain. Her 2019 teaching schedule includes March 4 – 8 at Espace Verre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and March 18 – 22 at the Glass Spot in Richmond, Virginia.