Boston’s Society of Arts + Crafts announced today that Sophie Glenn is the 2022 recipient of the John D. Mineck Fellowship, a high-profile award with an unrestricted $25,000 prize given annually to an early-career furniture artist.
A woodworker, sculptor, metalworker, and furniture designer based in Reading, Pennsylvania, Glenn stood out to Fellowship jurors as a talented artist with a unique vision, a commitment to artistic growth, and a promising technical ability. Her selection, made from a national pool of applicants, will be recognized October 6 with an award ceremony at the Boston Golf Club in Hingham, Mass.
Glenn (right) was born and raised in New York City, and attended the music, art and performing arts institution LaGuardia High School before earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture and Drawing from Purchase College/State University of New York. She pursued a Master of Fine Arts in Furniture Design and Woodworking at San Diego State University. “In college I pursued art and studied sculpture, but struggled to find my voice,” Glenn says. “At SUNY, I was introduced to furniture maker Vivian Beer and it all fell into place. I remember welding for the first time and it really struck me – this is what I have to do.”
After completing residencies at Tennessee’s Arrowmont School of Crafts and Appalachian Center for Craft – where Glenn was the 2016-2019 Wood Artist-In-Residence – she earned a full-time position as Visiting Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Mississippi State University.
Even though she had developed a deep love for teaching, Glenn says time alone in her studio brought her true enrichment and development. She left academia in 2021 to focus on her own designs, drawing inspiration from antiques, old photographs and historic New England furniture. Her deceptively modern pieces utilize traditional designs transformed by innovative fabrication processes – with steel standing in for wood. “I have always been fascinated with trying to harmoniously combine wood and steel in furniture,” Glenn says, “but often the two materials would compete instead of complement each other. Ultimately I eliminated wood entirely to create a series of classic furniture designs from rusted steel.”
“I intentionally rust my works,” she says, “it makes them look more like antiques but also shows off the material in a subtle way.” Her style brings humor and a culturally savvy point of view to certain pieces, notably her recent Gorgeous George (pictured, r). “This is one of the pieces I am most proud of,” she says. “It’s a Regency-style chair; sometimes the backs of these chairs would have paintings of nude women. I took a different spin on that idea…the image of Seinfeld character George Costanza came to mind, and I knew I had to use it.”
Glenn’s designs impressed Society of Arts + Crafts Trustee and Fellowship juror Miguel Gomez-Ibanez. “Sophie’s work attracted me at first when I thought I was looking at wood. When I realized it was steel instead of wood, I was impressed that It seemed so light, and showed a real interest and understanding of traditional New England furniture forms,” Gomez-Ibanez said. “Her work in steel is like no other I have seen. She has the technical ability and design sense to be a leader in the field.”
Glenn plans to use her Fellowship prize to complete construction on an independent studio, and invest in shop tools and supplies to encourage her artistic growth. Down the road she wants to lead workshops, offer private instruction, and mentor apprentices.
The John D. Mineck Furniture Fellowship is one of the largest such prizes in the craft field and one of the grants supported by the Boston-based John D. Mineck Foundation, which honors interests Mineck pursued throughout his life. The Fellowship focuses on rising furniture makers whose work is contemporary and functional, and supports young artists with financial assistance to develop their skills and move them toward independence. The Society of Arts + Crafts, where Mineck once served as Board president, has administered the fellowship since it began in 2007.