Photo by Kevin Allen
Despite — and, indeed, because of — their enormous success, Eric Markow and Thom Norris very rarely present their work to the public; in a typical year, they exhibit their exquisite hand-woven glass sculptures only once, spending most of their time working on a four- to six-month waiting list of commissions. Lucky for us, they accepted a local invitation to do a show, and on Thursday, April 3, Chasen Galleries in Carytown will host Markow, who's from Richmond, and Norris from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Until then, you can feast your eyes on their extensive portfolio at wovenglass.com .
RM: Is this going to be a limited show, given the relatively small space?
EM: We're probably going to take up half the gallery. But I think that it's probably going to be comparable to other shows that we've done.
TN: We'll have the dragonfly; it'll be the main sculpture. We'll have our red kilt, which is a custom piece we're doing for … one of [Andrew Chasen's] clients. … And then we'll have our hanging cranes, and maybe 15 of our other table sculptures or wall sculptures. So it'll be a good-size show.
RM: Andrew Chasen has described you as "the only glass artists to do woven glass." Is that true?
TN: It is true. We invented the woven-glass process at — as we call it—the turn of the century. We did stained glass for about 10 years, and we wanted to get a glass oven to make our stained glass panels in. And once we started cooking the glass, we never went back to stained glass. We said, well let's try to make a basket. And then we did some processes that sort of looked like woven glass from a distance, but it really wasn't woven. … So we said, why don't we try to figure this out. It took us about three and half years to perfect it… and we always joke that we didn't know we couldn't do it when we started.
RM: So there were really no antecedents to this process. … You just came up with it all on your own
EM: Yeah… you know my background is chemical engineering, actually, from Virginia Tech. And there was always a lot of scientific experimentation that I always felt very comfortable with based on that background.
RM: That's really extraordinary. There are very few artists who can actually say that they created something sort of, almost out of nothing.
EM: It took years to come up with the process. There was a lot of trial-and-error along the way. But from all kinds of problems you encounter you learn a lot from that, and that's when you really can create something significant.
RM: It must be very difficult to manage a piece of glass with various widths.
EM: The thing about the woven glass is you have all that texture, and that is so much harder to anneal than something that's very smooth, … But with the woven glass that we do, it's thicker, and plus it has all those cracks and crevices. And all that stress from that has to be removed from the glass.
RM: [to Markow] As a young person, were you much of an artist?
EM: When I was very young [growing up in Richmond], something that influenced me a lot is that [my father] would take me to the library to look at paintings that you could actually check out from the library … he would take me to pick out something that I liked and then come back and he got me a set of pastels, so I would try to reproduce the painting … I also grew up Catholic, so I went to a cathedral [Sacred Heart] that had lots of stained glass windows. So that was an influence as well.
- Markow (from Richmond) and Norris (from California) met in Northern Virginia in 1994 and have worked together ever since.
- Markow studied chemical engineering at Virginia Tech; Norris studied biology at University of Maryland.
- They have two pet parrots, Sidney and Simon.