artist spotlight
Aleksandra Szafiejew

share your creative practice:
in conversation with Aleksandra Szafiejew

What does it mean to you to join the North Lands Creative network and be part of building a community for glass?


Joining the North Lands Creative network means for me an expansion of my professional network of contacts, a wider perception of my work, more opportunities for presentation and presence in the world of artists working in glass, through which I hope for new collaborative, presentation and scholarship opportunities.


Tell us about your work. What influences translate into your art practice?


My artistic work is heavily influenced by practical considerations. I don’t have a lot of technical possibilities to process glass in my studio, so I try to work simply and efficiently.

Thematically I am most fascinated by nature and its laws, whereby I perceive humans as an integral part of living nature and the world as a whole.


Has this changed the way you approach your work?


Of course!


What initially captured your imagination about glass?


Initially I only worked in stained glass. It was the enormous power of light animating glass painting fascinated me and pushed me towards this medium. Although my works have taken new directions over time, the transparency and fragility of glass has remained a very important aspect of my work.


What’s the significance of the handmade to you?


At the beginning of each work there is an idea, a concept, but the very process of becoming, the laborious work of hands and mind are equally important. Sensitive and attentive observation of the process is a prerequisite for a successful work, often a coincidence that we observe and follow wisely can determine success. Handwork is mental work on myself, it is a kind of meditation.


What was your route to becoming an artist?


I graduated from art high school, but then I studied French and worked with the language. The lack of creative activity started to bother me after a while. At the same time I moved to Berlin where I found a stained glass studio, a branch of the renowned Glasmalerei Peters, where I learned everything about the art of stained glass. Later I set up my own studio and became interested in fusing, pâte de verre and kiln-formed sculpture in glass. I completed several courses, was accepted into the artists’ union and regularly exhibit my work as well as doing projects in public spaces.


What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?


At the moment I prefer to work figuratively using the lost wax technique, but I originally model my figures in clay. For a long time I have also been practising the graphic technique of monotyping on paper, which I have begun to translate into works in glass. Thus, I combine many techniques and skills and my artistic output is not homogeneous.


How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary glass?


Although I work mainly in glass, I see my work as art in general and want it to be seen as such. This means that it is not the substance that is the focus and goal for me, but the message and the intention. It is also difficult for me to define my position in the contemporary glass world because I am an autodidact, I work individually in my small studio and I do not often attend glass symposia.


Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?


I work slowly, in concentration and in isolation. The processes I have chosen take time and sometimes I have to start all over again or abandon a chosen direction. Of course, I sometimes wish that I could work in a larger team and with more technical capacity to be able to carry out larger works.


Who do you look up to when it comes to aesthetics?


I consider Ann Wolff’s work to be groundbreaking in the studio glass movement. By using the transparency of glass matter, this artist allows us to look into the “inner life” of her sculptures in a metaphysical sense. Gerhard Ribka’s children’s figures have also shaped my aesthetic enormously – like the matter itself, the object depicted is similarly fragile.


What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?


I am currently following the work of Brazilian photographer and climate activist Sebastiao Salgado. The way he portrays the last remnants of untouched nature and the last remaining natural tribes moves me to the depths. In some way I would like to contribute to the protection of these environments and communities, to draw attention to their beauty, fragility and vulnerability.


How are you experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic in your country? To what extent has your everyday life as an artist changed in lockdown?


Due to the pandemic, social isolation has increased and I feel it very acutely. There is a lack of contacts, impulses, many projects, programmes have been cancelled or postponed. The time in the lockdown was a largely lost time for me.

Aleksandra Szafiejew

Aleksandra Szafiejew, born in Poland in 1971, lives in Berlin since 2002. Her work makes use of many means and forms of expression, but two particular elements can be identified: the dominance of glass as an artistic medium of expression and a strong attachment to nature as a source and reference. The search for inspiration in natural forms is an expression of her fascination with their aesthetics and the perfection of their structures, and at the same time a consideration of herself, or human beings in general, as an integral part of the natural order. Her work attempts to redirect the anthropocentric perspective on understanding the world to the belief that everything is interconnected and that humans, as natural beings, are part of something much larger, connected to all animals, plants and Mother Earth. For this, qualities such as harmony and sensuality, simplicity and spirituality, beauty and innocence are made visible. The immaterial quality and transcendence of glass helps to convey these metaphysical qualities in a wonderful way.