To say that DesignTO 2021 was a bit unusual would be an understatement. Undeterred by the prospect of limited viewership and the logistics of manufacturing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sylvia Lee, executive and creative director of Toronto glass-blowing atelier Jeff Goodman Studio, took the opportunity to work on a project close to her heart. The result is a two-part collection of circular side tables and wall art, dubbed Telescope, that explores the vestiges of her past.
“As I get older, I realize that I’m losing my memory,” Lee says. “But I have all these snippets from my childhood, from my youth.” The individual telescopic glass shapes (or “views,” as she calls them) home in on those that Lee holds especially dear. “I remember skating with my family when I was five,” she adds. “But I don’t remember learning to skate. These fond memories make my person now, but there’s also a void.”
Though originally trained in furniture design, Lee quickly fell into glass-blowing while studying at Sheridan College. Since then, she’s accumulated some 20 years of experience with the medium, and has now spearheaded the practice for almost a decade. The studio’s signature Chroma glass product — which bore the idea for Telescope — is made by pulling coloured glass rods into long, tubular shapes prior to placing them into a kiln in different configurations to form a flat panel. For Lee’s striking showpieces, the individual units of Chroma were presented together in a haphazard circular arrangement of carefully layered hues reminiscent of the horizon at dawn.
Ranging in size from 30 to 50 centimetres, the nine wall pieces are enclosed in brass mounts and arranged on a blank white surface — meant to signify the “void of memory,” she says. The trio of standout tables, meanwhile, came later. With the 40-, 50- and 60-centimetre diameter designs, Lee hoped to showcase the beautiful edge detail of the glass atop a telescope-inspired brass base. Previously obscured by the brackets of the wall elements, the colourful profile forms a nebulous motif recalling both the haziness of a night sky and the accumulation of experiences. “For me,” she says, “each piece of glass, each view, is a snippet of memory.”
Sylvia Lee’s latest line explores the gaps in recollection through colourful artisanal glass.