Charlene Foster Glass Artist

How influential was the Avon Place Glass in Cambridge, USA have on your early career?

Avon Place Glass was the first hot shop I stepped foot into, over 20 years ago. I took a beginner’s glassblowing class there. I remember seeing a plate being spun and thinking ‘that’s pretty rad!’. After that, I would continuously dream of melting glass colors, and I knew this is what I wanted to do in some shape or form. So, in that sense, I would say it was pretty influential.

Corning With White gun mount chain, Photo Pyroscopic

Tell us about your time at Corning Museum of Glass?

In early 2002, I was back in Alaska working for the only glassblower in Anchorage and I really wanted to get out of there. I applied to Pilchuck, Penland and Corning for their summer intensive glass programs hoping to get into one and ended up getting accepted to all three. I left home with a backpack and a little money left on my credit card. Until I arrived at Corning for the last session of the summer, I was under the impression that the glass life was nothing but a party. But, CMOG is no joke! We couldn’t even listen to music in the studios. At first I was kind of upset, but honestly it forced me to take my work more seriously.

Why does having Corning Museum of Glass add so much to a glass artists CV?

Corning is historic and anyone who’s taken intensive classes there is probably pretty serious about their work.

Where did CHA CHA come from?

When I left Corning Museum of Glass, I took a bus to New York City and stayed with a friend I knew from high school who had a studio apartment in SOHO. I was lucky enough to get a job right away working for Michael Davis Glass in Long Island City, but even a full time job with him wasn’t enough to survive in Manhattan. So, I got a second full time job at a Brazilian restaurant on Avenue C called Esperanto. The majority, of people I worked with were foreign and everyone pronounced my name differently or called me anything but Charlene. Cha Cha came along when the guys in the kitchen would call me “Cha Cha Loca”… It just stuck.

What lead you to working on solo glass chains?

Glass Chain, photo Jeff Di Marco

My first glass chains were part of a Glass Bondage Series that symbolized the psychology of relationships. It was based off the meaning behind the Devil and the Lovers Tarot card and the fragility of the ties that we have to one another. It was a metaphor to show that our relationship can last if we take care of them, but if you abuse them and throw them around, they will shatter.  The work received a lot of attention, but not always the kind I was hoping for.  I decided to move away from those large scale sculptures. I took my work down to a smaller scale and started making jewelry. Glass chain making takes a lot of patience, repetition and stillness. I started doing it as a meditation and as a challenge to see if I could actually complete something so time consuming.

Take several Solo glass chains and discuss…

When you add other materials to the links

My glass chains are flameworked together. This is a glass chain which is made completely out of Corning white gun mounts. This one was made during the Michigan Glass Project and was a collaboration with glass artist Salt.

Salt make with Corning Gun Mounts, Photo Pyroscopic

The use of colour

I tend to be very particular about the glass I use for chains, the cleaner the colour the better. I prefer glass that doesn’t bubble up or have too many flaws to begin with. In order to be strong and durable, wearable glass should have the least amount of stress within it. Bubbles are ok at times, but I try to make sure the bubbles within my work are round which makes them less likely to crack. The quality is very important.

UV Reactive Custom Chain, for B-Real of Cypress Hill, Photo Pyroscopic

This UV reactive chain was a custom commission for the musician B-Real of Cypress Hill.

Under natural light this chain looks completely clear.

The number of links

The number of links per chain all depends on the length and the millimeter of the rods I use to start with. It also matters whether or not I use metal to complete it. I often get custom orders for chains that are 30 inches long, that’s usually about 50 to 60 links.

When you add other materials to the links

Photo Axel Dupeux

Here is a variety of glass colours I used for series of necklaces in that mixed sterling silver with glass. The circular coin is my logo. These chains were shorter choker style necklaces averaged 16-20’’

Discuss shape in relation to your series, ‘Jewelry Collabs’

My recent jewelry collabs are different from my chain work. I wanted to try something different and incorporate beads and stones with glass. I blend styles with the artist I’m collaborating with, by making or using beads to mix with their pieces. Here are some examples of jewelry collabs I enjoyed working on:

Collaboration with Sibelley. Made with Glass, Bone, Sterling Silver and Burnt Toothpicks. Detail

Made with Glass, Bone, Sterling Silver and Burnt Toothpicks.

Take us through the way you combine coloured glass with clear glass in your Warrior Series.

My Warrior Series was designed to incorporate glass with different color stones and crystals.  Similar to my Jewlery Collabs, they are both shaped like Cleopatra style necklaces, but with my Warrior Series I use clear glass spikes. I started this work to make it easy for clients to order these pieces and request their favourite kinds of stones. I also accept beads from clients for these projects. I love that I can reuse vintage beads of theirs that create a whole new necklace for them.

Clear Glass & Lapis Lazuli. Warrior Series

Explain your involvement in the Michigan Project.

The Michigan Glass Project is very near and dear to my heart and something I look forward to being involved in every year. I love how all, of these amazing artists get together, not to compete but to donate their time and art for a greater cause. We put in crazy long hours and push ourselves to the limit to create something truly unique. Some of the most incredible

collaborations have been made there, start to finish in just 3 days. At the end everything is

auctioned off and all the proceeds go to funding the arts in Detroit public schools, through the charity Art Road Detroit. It’s definitely one, of my favourite glass events and I can’t wait to go back this year.

Detail of The Michigan Glass Project.

You also collaborate with other glass artists, discuss one collaborations that have influenced your own work.

Spectral Crystal Devi 2017, Photo Alex Reyna

This massive collaboration was between 10 artists during the Michigan Glass Project 2017-

Banjo, Phil Siegel, Salt, Original Gongster, Big Z, Brandon Martin, Northern Waters (2 artists), Frompy and myself. This piece was auctioned on Instagram for $75,000.00. Aside from being super inspired to be involved in the creation of such a powerful piece of art, it also influenced me to incorporate more crystals and spirituality into my own glass work.

Discuss the complimentary use of jewellery and glass in your practice.

Humans have been making jewelry from glass for thousands of years, but people are still surprised when I tell them I make glass jewelry. Personally, I love the way that light reacts with the transparency of glass, especially sun light. It makes for a different experience every time you look at it.

Trip A Collaboration

Contact details:

Charlene Foster

Philadelphia, PA, USA

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May 2019