A prolific borosilicate flameworker producing highly recognizable works in functional and sculptural glass, Kim Thomas aka Zii is changing the face of flameworking. From detailed and realistic human teeth and severed finger pipes to her latest kinetic sculpture, the artist is redefining what is possible at the torch. From January – April, 2021, recent works The Cloud Capturing Apparatus and The Cloud Riding Contraption were exhibited in Glass in The Expanded Field at the Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, New Jersey.
Thomas also participated in Hunterdon’s companion symposium, Pipe Art: Understudied Glass, which considered the glass pipe as a fluid work of art fundamental to the art history of glass. Celebrated artists Dan Coyle and Luken Sheafe, whose artist name is SALT, presented their intensely wrought, figural, and in the case of Thomas, sometimes kinetic, pipes. Joined by Susie J. Silbert, Curator at the Corning Museum of Glass, these artists further contextualized their work within the burgeoning field of pipe-making.
Following graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in ceramics, Thomas attended The Make Up Designory and later worked as an assistant to award-winning special effects make-up artist Kevin Haney. In 2009, when she answered an advertisement for a studio apprentice in North Hollywood, California, Thomas discovered her passion for flameworking. With lessons from her studio mates and observation she quickly learned the medium and turned her practice into a career.
Now making work from the Urban Pheasant Glass Studio, Detroit, Michigan, Thomas is a former professor of glass at Salem Community College in New Jersey, and guest instructor at various schools and studios including Penland School of Craft, Snow Farm, and the Pilchuck School of Glass. She has demonstrated her techniques at The International Flameworking Conference and The Glass Art Society Conference, and exhibits her work in museums and galleries across the United States. Her attention to detail and regard for realism have resulted in a highly recognizable aesthetic signature. In a world where the inherent beauty of glass is regularly exploited, Thomas relies on a gritty realism to set her work apart. Few, if any, artists create similar work.
As Thomas continues to work on The Escape series – she prepares to teach classes at Penland School of Craft, July 18 – August 2 and Snow Farm from August 8 – 13. Both classes are full with waiting lists. She will also participate in an emerging artist residency at Pilchuck Glass School, October 6 – November 22, 2021.
Nicknamed after her classic 1978 Camaro Z28, Zii believes the most creative and engaging work is influenced by the things that find their way into your dreams. She says: “It’s easy with pipemaking to get pigeonholed into making one type of piece –- if you’re doing it as a living, you have to please your fans and make things they will buy. As an artist, if you want to grow and develop, and have some sort of message, you can’t just make one thing over and over.”