Kait Rhoads Glass Artist

Explain how spending six years on a boat in the Caribbean has influenced your work?

I grew up, mostly underwater. The rhythm of the sea dictated my life. When I slept in my bunk, I would hear the water moving against the hull of the boat. When I was awake, I would be in the water as much as possible. We sourced food from the water; I got to clean my first fish at the age of seven. I was fascinated by undersea life, when I was ten years old, I was certified to SCUBA dive. My mother ran a dive business while I was young, and I worked for her, my favorite thing was night dives. I love how the underwater world transformed, the beauty of the nocturnal creatures and the galaxy of colors that were revealed by my flashlight entranced me.

Blue Kelp II

Growing up in a natural setting, the natural growth formations surrounding me created a type of spiritual harmony. I so much loved looking subaquatic life, especially coral, their shapes and growth structures were different from how things grew on land, in material make up and morphology.

Aqua Detail

As I was a hyperactive handful at a young age, I was instructed in macramé; on the boat, one of my jobs was to do the utilitarian and decorative knot tying. I used natural fibers to create baggy wrinkle, or fluffy objects that protect the sails from the stainless-steel braided cable that supports the mast or protective grips on railings.

How have you have developed traditional Italian glass into your own contemporary style?

The world of glass became focused for me in my first year of working with it when I observed Lino Tagliapietra work with cane techniques and Dick Marquis used murrine as a structural material. In particular, I remember a demonstration Dick did at Pilchuck Glass School in 1991 in which he re-created a Roman bowl made with murrine fused together first on a horizontal plane, and then placed onto increasingly deeper molds to gently change its shape.  The use of mathematics in this reductive, and then constructive method really appealed to me.

I really love architecture, Buckminster Fuller is one of my favorite architects, he has more of a bio engineering focus to his work that I feel a kinship to.


I took my knowledge of murrine making and my affinity for fibers to link together short pieces of fluorescent tubing, or round murrine with holes in the center with thin copper wire to make sculpture in the 1990s.  In 1999, I made a hexagonal shaped mold that I used to make my hollow murrine with, I liked so much how these pieces fit together better, how they locked into place without leaving any gaps. It took me about 3 to 5 years to understand that I could make them thicker, more structural, and that I could weave them together to create more fluid and flowing styles. I now use my hollow murrine to make large scale, public art, work, medium size sculptures, less expensive design pieces, and jewelry.

What is the largest work you have produced?  Where is it now?

Salish Nettles 2018

What was the process in getting it both together and moved into situ?

Salish Nettles No.2

I was making the artwork while the aquarium was being built, so I had about a year to put the three large scale jellyfish together. I made small scale models of the three jellyfish armatures, enlarged them in drawings and had them fabricated in stainless steel. The ‘bells’ of the jellyfish were made with my classic hollow murrine construction. I worked with the Hilltop Artists in Tacoma to create hexagonal tubing at their hotshop and at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. The team there created round tubing with ridges on the exterior, or Rigitoni, as I call it, created specifically to slip over the stainless steel ‘tenticles’ of the jellyfish.

They were relatively easy to weave together on the stainless steel armature, and so I had the public help me finish the tentacles.

I was featured in the urban glass quarterly hot sheet for my 50th birthday celebration, as my guests had the opportunity to help weave the rigatoni onto my sculpture during the party.

After the sculptures were completed, myself and an assistant wrapped them up in bubble wrap and polystyrene and took them to the loading dock where Fabrication Specialties, the company who built the artmatures, loaded them onto a flatbed truck, drove them down to the aquarium and installed them in place.

Unfortunately, they are no longer in business in Seattle, but they did have an on-call engineer, which was important to sign off on my artwork, and the instillation at the site. It was an interesting process, to work back-and-forth with the engineer, and the architect of the building to make sure that we could access structural connections to hang the artwork, each of the pieces weighed 80 pounds or less, even if they were 7 to 9 feet long. Fortunately, my hollow murrine sculptures are able to be hung over head in public without a plastic coating on the glass.

On site, we had to bring each of the pieces into a freight elevator, we delivered them to the correct floor and located exactly where each piece was to be placed with maps and laser locators placed on the ground to locate the spot on the ceiling where they should go. We use a scissor lift to anchor the cables in the sips panel in the ceiling, when those were all in place, we lifted the sculptures up to the hanging cables, and attached them via turnbuckles and then wedged them into place.

It was a bit of a tricky positioning, as there are five different ways that you can encounter the artwork in the architectural space that they were hanging it, so the positioning had to be appropriate.

Kait Rhoads working on a glass sculpture in her Seattle studio that will hang in the new aquarium
at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Thursday, July 5, 2018. (Photo/John Froschauer)

Discuss your sea stone series.

They’re called Sea Stones because of the luminous quality of the glass which reminds me of the light in the water. How the light moves underneath the water, in such a different way than it does on land. It helps to differentiate them as their own series as well, I do post them on my design website rather than on my art website, as I see them as design smalls, or more affordable sculptures.

SS 17 18

Each Sea Stone is a small world in itself, I see them as talismans or collectible buildable sculpture. I like to experiment with color, sometimes I do an hombre or join two forms or more together. It is intimate when you can hold a sculpture in your hand. I like calling them stones because stones come in so many shapes and forms, sometimes beautiful crystalline structures, and my sea stones are rarely perfectly round, they have facets. I enjoy using different sized hollow murrine to make the Sea Stones so that they look almost molecular, like plankton carapaces I have observed of under the microscope.

They are born out of my impatience to a certain extent. When I’m working on a larger piece that takes two to three hundred hours to complete, I like to feel the sense of accomplishment of weaving something smaller that I can finish in a day. It makes me feel like I’m making progress, or it feeds my ADHD, and inability to focus on one project for more than an hour or two. My ideal studio set up is that I have five or six projects at different stations so I can work when I feel like I have a solution or next step for the artwork. My brain doesn’t always progress in a linear fashion; and, in reality, I can only weave for a certain amount of time before my hands get fatigued. It depends on the wire thickness, thinner wire is easier to manipulate and thicker wire harder.

Why are they all titled with numbers?

SS 21 14

I think of them as editions, so I title them with the year and the number of artwork that I made that year. Thus, it’s easy to tell in which year it was made: SS 23/01 is the first Sea Stone I made in 2023. It takes me a while to discover the name of something, I do make sea stones that are 10 to 13 inches in spherical form that I name. I think I need to be able to spend at least a week with a piece of art to be able to name it.

SS 19 07 Aqua md

Comment on having smaller art – jewellery in your collection.

Fibers were my first love, at the age of six or seven I started weaving jewelry. Eight years ago I inherited my earliest necklace I made for my mother, it is made out of waxed linen and limpet shells that I made when I was 7 or 8. I did study jewelry and light metals a little at Rollins College, and Rhode Island school of design (1987 – 1993)

N082 Kingfisher md

When I first started showing at SOFA Chicago and in New York, at the Armory, some women would be so excited to see my work, and so sad they couldn’t afford a sculpture. I found it too tedious to weave a large sculpture using the smaller hollow murrine so I started collecting them together. I used fine silver wire to weave them into bracelets, and began taking them to the SOFA, and to art fairs around the country when I belonged to Chappell Gallery, NY.

In 2009 I collaborated with the artist, Jana Brevick, and sold some work for about 10 years until they closed at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in downtown Seattle. It was wonderful to collaborate with an experienced Metalworker.

I am drawn to jewelry because it adorns the body. I have made apparatus for the body in the past as sculpture, especially when I was getting my masters degree. Sometimes I sew my artwork, I did learn how to sew from my grandmother when I was in high school, and studied costume design at Rollins College. I don’t really see a too many boundaries when it comes to using my abilities for artwork of different scale.

You have won many awards since leaving University.  Take one award that was to alter your work dramatically.

I imagined that it is my Fulbright scholarship to study sculpture in Murano, it adjusted my attitude about glass.  I was exposed to Lino Tagliapietra within my first year of working with glass. He came to my school and did a workshop. As well, he remained at Rhode Island School of Art and made some ikebana work for Dale Chihuhly, as a few pieces broke being shipped to New York City for a show, and they needed to be replaced. The summer after I had a chance to work again with Dale’s team during a Glass Lover’s Weekend event at Wheaton Village with Lino on some Dale’s ‘Venetians’. The way that Lino works with the glass, the classic Italian patterning techniques led me down the rabbit hole of Italian design in the 21st century. I so fell in love with Murano’s exposure to art nouveau and how that changed Italian glass design at that time. There are many designers that excited my mind in the way that they used murrine and cane. Especially Ercole Bariovier and Archemedes Seguso, I could see that these were not just design elements to be used in a traditional sense, but used by these artists to express poetry or their life surrounding them. My connection to fibers felt like it had a home in the color and pattern of cane and murrine.

Spending a year in Murano, for my Fulbright study enabled me to see the original pieces that I had studied in books, visit the buildings designed by Carlos Scarpa and to see expositions of designers like Vittorio Zecchin; in which the museums would showcase not only their glass designs, but their paintings, textile design, and industrial designs at the same time. It really opened my eyes to the multi-faceted repertoire of these artists.  As well, I lived surrounded by water, public transportation were boats/vaporetti, and my friends would take me out on their personal boats for recreation. It reminded me so much of growing up on the water, which I had left behind me 20 years previously.  It seemed to me that the connection I felt to the water rose up and engulfed me, bringing up old memories and reinforcing the bond between the water and myself.

Can you expand on ‘Bloom’ how it came to life and is it still at Highline College, Des Moines?

Bloom ,Soft Sculpture, 2018, 7’ x 4’ x 5’ for the blades of the bull kelp – the stipe, pneumatocyst or bladder of the bull kelp and the holdfast are 14’ long by 6”
Artist Inventory #: SS18-04, Blown glass, into steel molds, pulled out into tubing, cut, heated in a kiln, woven together with copper wire onto a silicon bronze frame work (shaped bull kelp fronds). This work was made specifically for the Beacon Gallery at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, but is permanently installed at Highline College, Des Moines, WA 2022, Photo: Ian Lewis

I was commissioned to make bloom for the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art’s two-story tall window space in 2018.

In that iteration of the artwork, I combined a few older works on the seamount/rock pile at the bottom of the window and added in Bloom, that attached to the rock at the bottom and extended up into the second-floor gallery where the blades of the Kelp cascaded out.  Gregory Robinson, the head curator, came up with the idea. It was so much fun to place my work onto the rocks/work with the stone cutter who drilled holes into the rocks, and positioning the stones inside of the gallery.

I had been thinking about making bull kelp for about a decade, having this opportunity, coupled with the new type of construction that I developed for Salish Nettle’s tentacles, ‘rigatoni’, really helped to bring this piece to life.  I designed the artwork so that it fit within a certain size parameter, so I made a three-dimensional model of the outline for the bull kelp nematocyst and blades to give to the metal worker. After I received the metal from the metalworker, I had a lot of work to do to clean up the edges, patina the silicon bronze, and then set up the sculpture and spend many hours of bending the metal so that it was perfect. From there, I added in my hollow murrine, green with big spots of transparent gold. These spots mimic the soris, or reproductive patches that are heavier than the rest of the blade, so that when bull kelp is broken up in the fall/winter these patches fall to the sea floor where they can grow and take root. The difficult part was re-creating the way I hung the work in my studio at the museum. It took a little jiggery-pokery, but in the end, it looked beautiful. The simplicity of weaving the stipe or long hollow attachment from the gas bag/pneumatocyst to the holdfast was lovely to make from the ‘rigitoni’, or sections of green and gold glass tubes with ridges on the outside.  It was so exciting to anchor the holdfast to the stones on the first floor.

In 2022, Bloom was chosen to be permanently installed inside of the biology department at Highline College, Des Moines, Washington.

Tell us about your work of the Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Salish Nettles, is a sculpture that depicts three jellyfish moving in a circular motion; one fully open, one half closed and one fully closed.  One first encounters, the sculpture when you enter the Pacific Seas Aquarium, they are hung at the same level with just a pain of glass in between the viewer and the sculpture.  As you wind around the inclined pathway of the aquarium, you encounter the sculpture again at the exit of the Aquarium, in the Waves Of Change conservation room, where it is suspended 10 feet in the air.

It is made from hollow murrine (the bells of the jellyfish) and rigatoni glass pieces (the tentacles of the jellyfish), woven together with copper wire.

How do you involved others in this public art works project.

I began working on the project at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, MA in November of 2017.  The students there helped me blow a lot of tubing, My concept for creating the artwork was to spend a portion of the fabrication money in Tacoma, the city where the artwork would be located, and involve as many people as I can from the city in making it. This gave me the opportunity to promote ocean ecology, especially to young people from the area. The next group that I involved with making the work was Hilltop Artists a youth development arts nonprofit in Tacoma. I arranged with Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium to have marine biologist Chad Widmer, a.k.a. the jelly man, come and give a talk to the students about jellyfish.  I gave them the rundown of the project, and Chad filled them in on some scientific background on jellyfish; then we worked together to produce tubing. On another occasion, I worked with the Hilltop Artists at the Museum of glass. The Museum of glass has a great amphitheater for the public to watch the action IRL as well as a livestreaming. Chad Whitmer worked with us that day in the shop blowing glass. Both he and I gave a few talks about the project and jellyfish to the public periodically during the day.

I was fortunate to have the Kristin Elliot from Grit City Glass cut up all my tubing, I fired it in my studio in the Bemis building in SODO and worked on putting together the bells of the jellyfish. At that time, Bemis arts would have open studio at least two times a year, as I was progressively, weaving the sculpture together, I offered for people who visited my studio to come back when I was ready to work on the tentacles and help make the sculpture.  During that time, I had my 50th birthday party, where as part of the festivities, you could weave part of the jellyfish tentacles together. Putting the rigatoni in place is a lot easier than weaving the hollow murrine together, myself, and my assistants had everything laid out and ready to go.  That was our practice run, and I made appointments with people who are interested and facilitated them, helping me with my sculpture. I worked with members of my community; art lovers; fellow volunteers of Seattle aquarium; students from Tacoma; and local mothers, and daughters.

It brings me pleasure to think that the community could feel a ownership of a sculpture located in a place that they would visit a fair few times over their lives. My goal with public art is to bring awareness to the incredible world that lies beneath the waves and our responsibility towards its health.

The importance of working, with experts such as Dr Chad Widmer.

I would not have been able to make the work without working with Chad Widmer, marine biologist, currently working at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, and author of “How to Keep Jellyfish in Aquariums: An Introductory Guide for Maintaining Healthy Jellies”. He discovered a type of jellyfish and named it Amphinema rollinsi after hard-core punk artist Henry Rollins, whose music he admires. I believe he requested that the jellyfish sculpture for the Pacific Seas Aquarium be made out of glass; which he has an affinity for, as he participates in the Hotshop Heroes program at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.

He spent time to show me all the different stages of life of Moon Jellies, Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, Egg Yolk and Pacific Sea Nettles/West Coast Nettles that he cares for at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. I chose to work with the form of the Pacific Sea Nettles for my sculpture, as they are a type of jellyfish that exist all over the world, but are a beautiful shade of orange here in the Salish Sea. Having that back-room access to jellyfish reproduction was invaluable. I think about it still, the slow, pulsating beats of a mature jellyfish, so different than the frantic movements of its larval forms, driven by bands of translucent muscles. My absolute favorite type of jellyfish observation is through the microscope, looking at the incredible planular, strobilia and ephyra stages in a jellyfish’s life cycle.

Working with Chad was invaluable, he let me take my time to observe the jellyfish, which then led me to create the sculpture with the jellies moving in a circular motion, each of the three sculptures representing a different position of the jellyfish bell, open, half closed and fully closed, acknowledging the relentless ability of jellyfish to pump their muscles, they do it even in their sleep, albeit a little slower.

‘Laurel Wreath’ is from 2014, but it is beautiful can you expand on it?


My connection to wearable sculpture comes from my time studying costume in liberal art collage, Pilchuck Glass School’s student to student auctions during the summer sessions and a body of artwork I made in Alfred University, where I received my MFA. body of artwork I made in Alfred University, where I received my MFA.

Laurel Wreath is the genesis four other artwork that I have made centered around honoring nature. It was born out of using some scrap flat class that I was gifted by fellow Bemis Arts artist, April Surgent. I experimented with engraving, and then slumping or fire polishing the glass in a kiln.

There’s something delicate and lovely about the artwork and I used myself for the photo.

Laurel Wreath, 2014, 7” x 8” x 3” with stand 8” x 8” x 8”, Artist Inventory #:  S14-01

Engraved and slumped sheet glass, silicon bronze headpiece, brass wire and stand.

Photo: Erica Sciaretta

The laurel wreath was traditionally given as an award, or mark of honor. Perhaps it is a symbol of myself, giving myself an honor, as an Aries, I can be quite impatient. Why wait around for someone else to give you an award?  Perhaps I was fighting against the cultural imperative in America, that older women become invisible.

Laurel Wreath

“Laurel Wreath” was the beginning of creating new series of work using flat ’privacy’ glass, waterjet cut into leaf shapes, slumped and woven together on steel forms like “Garland” and “Honor”

Garland, Sculpture, 2015, 38” x 24” x 5”, Artist Inventory #: S15-01
Plate glass, water jet cut, engraved, slumped and fire polished linked to steel support structures with stainless steel wire.  Photo Credit:  Mike Seidl

Discuss the importance of teaching to you?

I enjoy teaching, I will be teaching a sculptural workshop that involves discussing climate change and incorporating the knowledge into sculpture this summer with the artist Rachel Rose Moore at Pilchuck Glass School (June9-20).  I did teach a semester at the University of Hawaii in 2011 and one or two classes during grad school at Alfred University. It’s not easy to teach sculpture, but I think it’s more rewarding than teaching technique. Glassmaking is such a team sport, teaching can be important to meet new people and to create friendships, some friendships could grow into finding a great independent contractor to work with. As well, I get inspired by the work that the students make, and the excitement of working with glass in a new way. I am looking for a new assistant these days, perhaps they will be taking my next class……..

In 2020 you had, exhibitions cancelled due to the pandemic, how has this affected you as a practicing artist?

My career was going pretty strong at that time, and then the world turned over. I also bought a house at the end of 2019, so in a way I’ve been lucky that I have been able to focus on fixing up my house and making it livable and studio worthy.  I do feel that my momentum was blunted, and that the galleries have shifted how they operate to a certain extent.  As well, I have had carpal tunnel surgery on both my wrists and some further arthroscopic surgery on my left wrist to try to repair some damage I did in 1990. I had to let go of my assistant of 16 years, due to the financial strain.  So things have slowed down for me a bit, but I’m hoping to regain some momentum as we spend the next two years closing out Covid. I don’t have formal representation in Seattle, but I have secured an installation space for a show in 2024 and I am applying to different residencies to support that show. I have a plan, emerging on where to focus my creative energies in the next five years on creating a large kelp forest installation. My goal has been to only create large scale work for public art, as I do not want to store large scale works for long periods of time. I would like to develop this artwork for a specific space in the long run, but I’m going to have to practice making larger works to figure out a new system so that I can be conservative with glass use, storage and shipping. I want to make a conscious effort to be light upon the earth as I take to heart my mission of promoting ocean ecology

Take three pieces and discuss them.


 Bloom 2018 in detail

Bloom was the culmination of a ten-year thought process. It was such a pleasure to be asked to fill a two-story picture window gallery space of the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art’s Beacon Gallery for 2018. Gregory Robinson, the Museum’s Chief Curator, gave me the opportunity to create a sculpture of a life-size bull kelp. I did my best to make this sculpture to give honor to these beautiful algae, rising up from the seamount with the blades of the bull kelp floating to one side of the pneumatocyst, flowing with the imagined tide.  I thought it was appropriate to have this sentinel ensconced in a window facing the first intersection leaving the ferry terminal; reminding everyone of the Salish Sea’s presence.  Many ride upon her surface, but not know what is beneath the surface. I hope that my artwork gave the public who viewed it the ability to imagine what bull kelp look from underwater.  We know how it looks from the surface, as it is easy to encounter there, but the lonely majesty of seeing the bull kelp underwater is a new way to experience these important ecosystem engineers that create habitat for a wide range of local and migratory species. I am thrilled that it has a permanent home in the Biology Department of Highline College, Des Moines, WA.

Here is a quote from Gregory Robinson’s write up of the work:

“With Bloom, Rhoads combines brand new and existing work, conceived specifically for BIMA’s Beacon Gallery installation. Rhoads’ mixed media sculptures are built through her own techniques, using hand-formed hollow murrine glass beads, wire, and bronze cable. Bloom reflects Rhoads’ highly accomplished skills in classic Venetian glassblowing techniques, with her lifelong connection to ocean worlds, and her sculptural visions. This work combines her dual sensibilities of realism and abstraction with the interplays of color, light, and the materiality of sculpture.


Auric (Polychaetae), Soft Sculpture 2021,  33.5” x 25.5” x 8.5”, Artist Inventory #: SS21-01, Blown glass, mixed cobalt blue and turquoise hollow murine woven into a stainless-steel armature with copper wire. Photo: Ian Lewis

Auric, it is a romp of color and form, a sculpture that embraces fractal expansion in a fantasy seaweed form. My poem of respect and thanks for the contribution of algae as ecosystem regulator and climate regenerator. I designed the metal work that supports the sculpture, and when I received it back from the metalworker, I take my palette of colored hollow murrine and weave it to the form with patinaed copper wire. I know the tips of my steel spokes/supports will be my down beats/closest to the wall points and then I can create the rest of the form by using these anchor points. After this, I let the sculpture speak to me, it emerges from under my hands and after removing parts of it that don’t please me. I allow for growth and exploration with each artwork I make, to keep my mind engaged.

Auric is difficult to photograph, as it doesn’t show it’s contours and convolutions easily in a two-dimensional representation. As the sculpture radiates away from the spine in an aqua glass and towards the edge of the sculpture where the glass is transparent cobalt, the volume of the ripple expands. I don’t like to make the work too predictable. The hollow murrine must link together in a structural manner so that the longevity of the artwork is kept in mind. This takes thicker wire and a stronger hand at the edges. The form resembles the frozen motion of a Spanish Dancer/nudibranch or polychaete worm moving through the water in a rippling motion.


Proto Kelp Forest, Sculpture 2022, 11” x 7.5” x 9” Green and gold blown glass tubing segments, linked together by copper wire.

This is a small sculpture/model that I created from glass at the Centre du Verre Contemporain last fall in Biot, France.  It is an exploration of bifurcation, starting with one tube at the bottom, and branching into two. Then those two branch into two more segments of seaweed, etc.. until the sixth tier where there are sixty-four segments. this art piece or model has really inspired me to begin a round of applications in order to explore its potential. It is simple to handle a 22.86cm tall sculpture, but I would like to work through the engineering to enlarge it to 1 m and over 2 m, bigger than a human. I have seldom been so pleased by the potential of a model. I plan to engraving onto the tube a community sourced word of admiration so that when the sculpture is linked together these words will become poems.

What do you look for when choosing a gallery to support your art?

For the head of the Gallery to have good reputation for being involved in the arts over a sustained amount of time; for the artists who belong to the Gallery’s artists to be ones that I admire and not to be too numerous. Whose artwork is artwork that I could envision being in a group exhibition with.  Covid really disrupted the art world, so I don’t know what is expected from a Gallery these days.  Many have pretty much shifted to online experiences and shows. I would really like to work with the gallery that would with me to promote my work in the region and assist me with commissions.


Kait Rhoads

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2023