When people ask Jonah Ward what type of artist he is, he’s often met with puzzled stares after he tells them that he “burns wood with glass.”
Wooden panels stamped with what could be tar-like paint, printed with abstract designs and meanderings. Upon closer inspection, the different woods are scarred with burns: what is left over when Jonah drips, ladles, presses, and peels molten glass off the carefully selected wood panels.
Watching Ward work is an exhilarating experience. With ungloved hands, he wields a punty (an iron rod used to hold and shape melted glass) like a symphony conductor over planks of ambrosia maple, zebra or purpleheart wood. Using the punty and a pair of metal tongs, he drizzles molten glass (which can be as hot as 2,100 degrees) onto the wood, leaving a trail of deep burns. Ward’s scar-free hands prove he’s mastered his method.
2100 degree molten glass
Tweezers help pull the glass
Pouring glass from a ladel
“I don’t want to give a name to a piece and insert a thought or image into the viewer’s mind,” says Ward. “I want them to come to their own conclusions.” To complete each piece, Ward creates natural frames by taking thin strips of wood and burning them around the edges. He then covers the entire work in beeswax to preserve and protect it.
“Working with wood, glass and fire—it’s all very primal and elemental,” says Ward, who never goes into the studio with a specific image in mind. Instead he focuses on the overall composition and says that the wood itself—how it burns and reacts to the melting glass—plays an integral role in the process. “I definitely look at wood in a different way today,” says Ward. “If I see an interesting piece of wood, even if it’s a nice piece of furniture, I think to myself, ‘I bet that would look great burned.’”
Check out Jonah at his site jonahward.com