“I definitely always had artistic tendencies,” Annie Grossarth recalled. “My parents were magicians. They met in Boise, Idaho, and moved to Eugene, Oregon. They did a lot of company picnics and festivals. My mom would dress up as a magic clown. I was always the assistant — I was the floating lady.”
In college, Grossarth’s interest turned from performing arts to studio arts. She started college in Oregon, then moved to Minneapolis where her sister and brother-in-law were already living. She completed her associate degree in studio arts at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC).
Three years ago, still in college, she “stumbled across” Potekglass in northeast Minneapolis and decided to take a class with studio owner Malcom Potek. She made herself memorable to her future boss by showing up on the wrong day. Shortly thereafter, he posted a notice for an intern. “I became an intern for 150 hours while working at Starbucks,” Grossarth said.
One of the assigned duties of the internship was teaching beginning-level classes.
“My parents both ended up being teachers, so it was something I was very interested in,” she said.
After the internship was complete, Grossarth moved into the almost full-time studio assistant position. Her role continues to include most of the intro-level classes that are offered on weekends. “During the week I do the admin stuff — advertising and marketing schemes, ordering and inventory. I also do production work — if Malcom gets commissioned to do something or we want to run a new product line, I wind up doing the time-consuming parts of it. We do a lot of residencies with schools; each student gets to do an individual tile and we put them together and it gets installed in a window. I’m looking into doing more intermediate classes as well as developing some products. I’m super-grateful for my position here because I have the time and the space and the materials.”
Why were you attracted to glasswork?
It’s three-dimensional, something tactile that can be held and touched and examined. With a drawing or a painting, it’s “don’t touch it!” With glass, unless it gets dropped, it’s not going to change. I also enjoy that the process is a little more dangerous than some mediums. I enjoy working with the high temperature. With glass, you can’t take your time with it. Once you start, you have to keep going until it’s done. It’s challenging for me to work on things for a long time. This holds my attention.
What kinds of products do you make?
We’ve done eco-jigs — lead-free glass fishing lures. They’re made like a marble so they won’t break. I used to decorate cakes, so I’ve been applying that technique to making small glass roses. We’re going to produce those as wedding-cake toppers. We do lot of lighting and tiles. I’ve been creating more designs for those products so folks have a variety to choose from.
Do you have time for your own art?
It’s usually more off the clock. I do a lot of sculptural work in borosilicate glass — small animals and floral designs. I’m coming back to enjoying making beads, too.
Where will your career go from here?
For the time, I’m content to share my knowledge and resources with folks who want to practice with glass for the first time. It’s exciting that Malcom has the same mission — to help people pursue a seemingly unattainable medium. □