Artist Interview: Mary Zoller Lightner

Posted by Jenni Kirby - December 16 2020




For artist Mary Zoller Lightner it is the light captured in glass that inspires. “I feel like glass is symbolic and almost spiritual at times. Finding light in life and through glass.”


Lightner's glass explorations began with a class by Paul Messink where she learned how to create images in three-dimensional glass. She then took another class with Michael Janis at Penland School of Craft, where she learned about the sgraffito technique. 


Sgraffito involves working with glass powder and is extremely challenging. “I realized I love the soft effect you get through the sgraffito process. It’s like painting with powder and air, it’s so easy to mess up if you’re not careful, and you can’t take the powder off once you have it down.”


Lightner’s three-dimensional glass pieces often combine the sgraffito technique, or hand painting, with layered and fused glass. Typically, each layer takes 24 hours to fuse and then must have time to anneal, which Lightner says is the most important part. “It’s really a science learning how to time the heating and cooling process. I shed a lot of tears in the beginning,” she laughs, “in addition to a lot of band-aids on my fingers.” Completion time varies for each piece but can range anywhere from a few weeks to a month, depending on the elements and complexity.


While Lightner also makes glass jewelry, she says the landscape pieces remain her primary focus. Though greatly influenced by the mountains where she lives, Lightner is planning for new subject matter in the coming year. She is planning to create multi-media pieces including animals, and human figures, combining these elements with nature including some seascapes.


Perhaps, as her name suggests, Mary Lightner’s glass artworks will bring light into your life as well.