Cast glass | 08-02-2024

Waxing lyrical

Anja Isphording relocated her contemporary glass practice from Germany to Canada when she moved in 2000. She is a respected lost wax kiln caster whose work has been exhibited internationally. Linda Banks finds out more.

You are known for your impressive cast glass sculptures. What led you to start working with glass?

After high school I had to decide what to do next. I knew I wanted and needed to do something with my hands, but didn’t quite know in which direction to go.

We had a little, engraved antique glass in the china cabinet that we inherited from my grandmother and I thought that was just so intriguing! It turned out that glass engraver was actually a real occupation (I had never heard of it) and I started an apprenticeship at Glasfachschule Zwiesel in 1983.


‘#167’ (2018). Photo: Raymond Lum.

What glass techniques have you used and which do you prefer?

I started with the three-year apprenticeship in engraving and also used enamels on my glass for the first few years. I also took classes in glassblowing, hot sculpting, stained glass, sandblasting and flameworking.

When I started kiln casting with the lost wax method, I knew that this was the right technique for me; I prefer the slow process of working on a wax model and the deliberate decision-making along the way. In addition, I seem to like working on my own. I do love coldworking and all my cast pieces are extensively cut, engraved and polished.

Excavation process showing the glass emerging from the mould. Photo: Anja Isphording.

What is your creative approach? Do you draw your ideas out or dive straight in with the materials?

I used to draw out my ideas first, but these days I start with the warm wax straight away, maybe doing a drawing along the way. Often, I start with a certain idea and then completely change my mind while I’m working on the model, as the piece develops.

This wax model shows the intricate details of Anja’s cast sculptures.

What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment and why?

My trusty old Merker engraving lathe is my favourite piece of equipment. It accompanied me from Bavaria to Helminghausen to Vancouver over the course of 40 years and it still works great, even though I don’t treat it very nicely.

‘#179’ was completed in 2021. Photo: Mark Whitehead.

Where do you show and sell your work?

Heller Gallery in New York has represented my art for over 20 years.

‘#193’ is a recent piece, produced in 2023. Photo: John Watson.

What advice would you give to someone starting out on a creative career?

You have to be patient and prepared to be in it for the long haul. Apply as often as possible to competitions and exhibitions with professional images. Also use those images on social media.

‘#153’ (2014). Photo: Raymond Lum.

Do you have a career highlight? What has helped your career?

My scholarship at the Creative Glass Centre of America, Wheaton Village, was very important because, during my stay in 1995, I finally figured out how to successfully cast glass in the lost wax technique. I had access to optical glass and it worked beautifully!

I’d also like to highlight how crucial it was for my career that Heller Gallery in New York added me to their artist’s roster and I’m grateful for their support and consistency.

‘#187’ was made in 2022. Photo: John Watson.

About the artist

Anja Isphording with a wax model. Photo credit: Anja Isphording.

Following her apprenticeship in glass engraving, Anja Isphording studied glass design at Fachschule Zwiesel, Germany, from 1986-1988.

She set up her own studio in Helminghausen, Germany, which she ran between 1988 and 2000, subsequently moving to Vancouver, Canada, where she established a new studio.

During her time in Germany, she won scholarships to the Academy of Applied Arts, Prague, Czech Republic (1993), the Creative Glass Center of America, Wheaton Village, NJ, US (1995)

Pilchuck Glass School, WA, US, (1998-2001).

She has exhibited internationally.

Find out more about Anja and her work via her website:

Main feature image: ‘#145’ (2012) comprises kiln-cast glass made using the lost wax technique and multiple castings. Photo: Raymond Lum.       

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