Glass artist Jolly Wahlstrom began his artistic career as a woodworker. “I grew up on a small farm in Northern Minnesota, in a family that didn’t have a lot of money,” he says. “When I was 19, I wanted a musical instrument, so I had to make it myself. I made an Appalachian dulcimer, and that was the beginning of my career as a craftsman.”
After working for almost 30 years in wood, Wahlstrom took a class in fused glass 12 years ago that changed his career trajectory. “When I took the class, I saw so many possibilities with glass,” he says. “I liked that you could take something made of glass, put it into the kiln and turn it into an item that had real artistic beauty, and so I shifted to working in glass.”
Wahlstrom, who lives in Port Townsend, Wash., uses recycled glass to make his outdoor furniture, sculptures and custom pieces (thick glass panes of his depicting fish and horses whimsically embellish a fence near Portland’s Laurelhurst neighborhood). “I only use glass from recycled windows,” he says. “I have contacts with people who work on houses, and when they begin a project where the windows will be replaced, I take a small trailer to the site, and they fill it up with the salvaged windows.”
To make the 3-foot-tall crab grass blades, Wahlstrom layers the glass shapes to the desired thickness before firing them. “As the pieces fuse together, they get wider and take on a more organic look,” he says. “I like the way the pieces are transformed in the kiln.”
Since he designs many of his pieces for outdoor use, Wahlstrom enjoys the way they interact with the environment. “One of the fun things about using window glass is that it’s so clear,” he says. “It rarely has heavy tints to it, so that creates interesting reflections in the finished pieces. The color of the glass changes depending on where you place the pieces and what the glass is reflecting.” Each blade of crab grass costs $100.
Contact glass artist Jolly Wahlstrom via his website, crackerdog.com.