Badger Insider spotlights Helen Lee and UW–Madison Glass Lab


UW–Madison’s Helen Lee and the UW–Madison Glass Lab were featured in a recent story in the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Badger Insider, headlined “In Case of Curiosity, Break Glass.”

Helen Lee working with glass
Helen Lee works with molten glass

In the feature, Lee, who is the director of the Glass Lab and holds the Helen Burish Faculty Fellowship with the School of Education’s Art Department, speaks about the Glass Lab’s storied history, and how now after 60 years, it stands at the forefront of a new era in glass-making.

Lee discusses the unique “in-betweenness” of molten glass in a state between liquid and solid, and how this renders the medium rich with exploratory potential.

“People will call (glass) an amorphous solid and all these other terms, but I like it when it’s called a different state of matter, just because my imagination gets so curious,” Lee says. “We understand solid, liquid, gas. Those are commonplace, everyday things. But it’s not that commonplace to interact with the glassy state.”

The UW–Madison Glass Lab was established in 1962 by Harvey Littleton, making it the first academic glass arts program in the nation. Today, artists — including many Glass Lab alumni — are bringing the medium “into areas of academia that stand to benefit from the ubiquitous and multi-elemental material’s abilities to reflect, refract, and redefine other realms of scholarship,” according to the article.

“Back then (in the 1960s), it was groundbreaking and innovative to even be able to control glass or understand it on a personal, intimate, one-on-one, material-in-my-hand relationship,” Lee says. “Now, 60 years later, we’re actually able to see what different types of connections we can make or what different paths of scholarship we can navigate because we have the disciplined skillset of knowing the material to such an intense degree of intimacy.”

Several groundbreaking alumni, who were featured during this fall’s Glass Madison exhibitions, are also featured in the Badger Insider story. Check out the article to learn more about their work.

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