Connecting with Hot Glass

Tidewater Women’s Fran Ward talked with Charlotte Potter, Chrysler Museum’s Art Glass Studio Manager and Programming Director.

TW: Charlotte, you are an installation, video, and glass artist and designer with work in museums and galleries internationally. You’re a pioneer in developing glass as a performance medium. Tell the readers of Tidewater Women how this has transpired!

CP: Originally from Vermont with a last name “Potter,” I was going to be a ceramicist. I received a BFA from Alfred University in Western New York State—the best ceramic school in the nation, which also has a glass department. My graduate work was at Rhode Island School of Design.

TW: When did your interest in glass kick in?

CP: I saw glass when I was 18. It was beautiful, moving, viscous, and impossible! It was magical. I changed direction when I discovered hot glass. It was the most challenging and only material that could keep my concentration. It’s humbling. It tests me constantly.

TW: I’m interested in magic, passion, and ephemeral qualities. Describe how you make “Charlotte” become manifest in the many forms your art takes!

CP: Glass is the material I “sketch” in. The philosophical human condition to want to connect with other people is what drives everything I do—the people-to-people connection. I make connections. I explore connecting, attempt to connect, and consider consequences of connection. Sometimes relationships don’t work out.

TW: I’m curious: “What is your first memory?”

CP: I love that question. It was mundane—I was on my father’s shoulders. It was a brisk day. I was probably two. He was walking onto the porch with me. My mother said, “You should put a sweater on her.” I remember the sweater.

TW: What color was it?

CP: It was a white wool sweater with pewter buttons.

TW: It’s all about connections: between people, the physical connection, the warmth, noticing conditions, the nurturing. These are all central to you. Your art represents your philosophy.

CP: This is a nice segue into performance work. When I first saw glass, I never really cared for the final object. Most of it looked cold and dead. I consider glass to be alive. I fell in love with hot glass. It was always about the magic and my wanting to understand the mystery of what happens when it is hot.

My fascination with the process of hot glass has informed the Third Thursdays in the Glass Studio. They’re always different, yet each combines live music and glass art as performance art. We feature the mind of one artist or a collaborative group of artists.

In March, James Vella—who lives in New Orleans and was my former boss when I was 21—will present “Jambalaya,” a celebration of music, creole, glass, and food. “Hot Gumbo,” a local brass band that does street performances will play.

There’s symmetry between the culinary and glass worlds—working in a hot space, the assembly line, the choreography. Vella will create “glass jambalaya” by working with a team. Each person makes a different part that goes into a big pot.

TW: How does your making connections fit in with Third Thursdays?

CP: People are yearning for experiences. We’re a space for that. People come here for an experience—similar to going to a ballet or concert. We can keep an altruistic approach. The museum has allowed us to pursue the process and not the creation of a product. Art lovers can see beautiful examples of glass throughout the ages across the street. Of primary concern is the education of the public and ourselves. The performances demonstrates process. When you come here, you can blow glass yourself or watch someone else.

TW: Charlotte, what would you like the readers of Tidewater Women to know?

CP: Glassblowing is a male-dominated field. Only in the last 50 years have women been allowed in the glass studio to create. I love the idea that I’m the second or third generation of women able to make a profession of this.

TW: Charlotte, you do so much—the glass, the performances, the videos…

CP: Whatever I do is focused through a glass lens. We’re a platform for performance glass in Norfolk. We’ve set the bar internationally. We’re lucky to be in a community where people don’t say no—they say yes! 

“Jambalaya” March 17, 2016, Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, 745 Duke St., Norfolk •  Entry tickets available at the Studio at 6 p.m • Doors open at 8 p.m. • • 757-664-6200 • Free for museum members, others ($)

Charlotte Potter • • 

Fran Ward

Fran Ward is an artist and writer with a Ph.D. in Metaphysics (the body, mind, spirit connection). She is an active art and music lover who enjoys traditional cultural productions as well as seeking events off the beaten path. Reach her at

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