Syracuse University Magazine

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Sally Prasch

Unbreakable Bond

Sally Prasch finds herself at ease in the world of glass. Whether she is mending a broken beaker, devising a unique piece of glassware for a scientist’s research, or creating a magnificent chandelier that evokes flowing water, Prasch revels in the versatility of glass. “Glass is an absolutely wonderful material,” says Prasch, the University’s scientific glassblower and an internationally renowned glass artist. “There are so many different techniques you can use to make different items of glass. It’s endless.”

The shelves and cabinets of her basement shop in the Science and Technology Center are decorated with vacuum manifolds, Erlenmeyer flasks, glass rods, and other lab items. Her worktable is lined with three bench torches and inhabited by glassware in various states of disrepair. At one point, Prasch picks up a 10-piece tube she made for a physics researcher who will fire laser beams through it. “I’m so blown away by what scientists do and the passion they have for their work,” she says. “I like to help them out and enjoy the interactions we share.”  

Depending on the project, Prasch shapes and molds apparatus out of specific types of glass—borosilicate or fused quartz, for example—and her work is steeped in the knowledge of the role glass has played in scientific advancements, from Edison’s light bulb to semiconductor chips. “We don’t usually think about how much we use glass every day,” she says. “But where would we be without glass?”

Prasch developed her unbreakable bond with glass as a 13-year-old in Lincoln, Nebraska, after taking a workshop with glassblower Lloyd Moore and then apprenticing with him throughout her teen years. She earned a B.F.A. degree in furnace glassblowing and ceramics from the University of Kansas, and a certificate in scientific glass technology and an applied science degree from Salem Community College in New Jersey. Prasch launched her career as a scientific glassblower in 1985 at AT&T, working with large quartz for the semiconductor industry. She served as a glassblower and instructor at the universities of Massachusetts and Vermont before arriving at SU in 2005. When not working in Syracuse, she pursues her passion for glass art in her home studio in western Massachusetts (www.praschglass.com), conjuring up artwork that often reflects a combination of her playfulness, technical expertise, and evolving interests. “This job gives me the ability to make whatever I want in my art studio and put it out there,” she says.

For Prasch, art is a constant exploration. She produces portraits out of discarded shards, fashions intricately detailed and colored flowers, and has a knack for creating goblets and sculptures that feature figurines sealed in with rare gases like Xenon. Her creations have appeared in numerous books and articles, and she has taught workshops and exhibited her artwork around the world. “Glassblowing is all about being calm, almost like a meditation,” she says. “And really feeling the glass. After a while, you’ll feel the vibration of it in your fingertips.”

It’s a feeling Prasch cherishes, along with seeing where the next creation leads her. “I love science and see similarities between science and art,” she says. “I think both scientists and artists have to fail a lot to succeed. They both really have to push the limits and reach beyond them.”               —Jay Cox



Steve Bottari / TheNewsHouse.com