The Queue: Sophie Glenn
The Queue: Sophie Glenn
Sophie Glenn makes steel look like wood in her beguiling furniture.
Sophie Glenn’s furniture is not what it seems. Made of painted and rusted steel, her work borrows from classic furniture forms while eliminating wood entirely. It demands close examination. In one chair, Black Sheep, she replaced a woven fabric seat with woven steel wool. In another, she embedded a photo transfer of the Seinfeld character George Costanza into a bronze lattice chairback. Born and raised in New York City, Glenn first worked with wood and metal in college. “I really loved making things with my hands, and especially creating useful objects from raw materials,” she says. Currently based in Reading, Pennsylvania, she teaches regularly at craft schools around the country. She is the 2022 recipient of the John D. Mineck Fellowship, given by the Society of Arts + Crafts to an exemplary early-career furniture maker. Read about her playful amoeba keepsake boxes in “To Have and To Hold” in the Fall 2023 issue of American Craft.
How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I am a furniture maker and metalworker. I re-create classic furniture designs completely out of painted and rusted steel. I do this by combining hollow-form metal fabrication techniques, welding, and even some forming processes borrowed from woodworking.
Tell us about the first piece of furniture that captivated you. What about it drew you in?
I don’t know if I can name a specific piece, but when I was getting into furniture making, I remember looking through the book 500 Chairs and being enthralled with the diverse selection of chairs and the overall idea of studio furniture. It opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t know existed.
Your work references historical furniture forms as well as pop culture elements such as Seinfeld, Twin Peaks, and Neil Young. Where do you source your reference material?
I often look at auction websites and museum databases to find images of furniture pieces. If I’m lucky, they’ll have dimensions included. The pop culture references come from all over, but I tend to gravitate toward those that are humorous, relatable, and recognizable to add a contemporary element to my works.
What are the biggest challenges of translating traditional wood furniture forms into metal?
When I first started this body of work, I only owned a welder and my angle grinder, so it was an exciting challenge to figure out how to create certain furniture forms out of steel, particularly curved arms and tapered legs. Heat and warping can also be pretty humbling at times.
What do you collect in your studio?
I have a random assortment of doodads that I’ve collected over the years that are scattered throughout the studio. A lot of these things were given to me by friends, but I’ve held on to all of them because they make me happy. Some highlights are a tiny bronze My Little Pony figurine, a wooden dodo bird, and a small plastic hot dog.
Which furniture artists, exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
It’s important to highlight organizations that are providing educational opportunities for underrepresented groups in the fields of woodworking and metalworking. A Workshop of Our Own, Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths, Women Who Weld, and People’s Inclusive Welding are a few that come to mind, but there are many others!