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Kolika Chatterjee, April Artist of the Month

Kolika Chatterjee; photo by Jaclyn Tyler

Kolika Chatterjee, April Artist of the Month

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Interview with Kolika of Glass Paper Scissors as told to Kerrie Kemperman; photography by Jaclyn Tyler.
How would you describe your art?

In one word: Functional. In two: Eclectic and functional. 
I make glass art, designed to be used… as vases, business card holders, succulent planters and popcorn bowls for Netflix binging. My appetizer trays want to be invited to your alfresco wine parties; and serving bowls & centerpieces deserve a spot when you’re arguing politics over Thanksgiving dinner. 
I make art (usually from glass, sometimes repurposed materials) that becomes a part of your life. 

What got you involved in glass art? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? 

At twelve (or maybe eleven) I found an abandoned sheet of framing glass, stuck it on paper and took a hammer to it, then poured ink through the cracks. I was always fascinated by glass—the motion, the fluidity, the pattern of cracks, all of it. Needless to say this quite dangerous adventure for a pre-teen got me into significant trouble but also got me my first set of glass paint (thanks Mama!), followed by lessons in glass etching. I learned to do stained glass much later, around 2010, by myself. Fused glass too was self-taught; although I have had mentors along the way and years later I took some refresher classes. I love fused glass because it is reminiscent of my days in the lab, being so much more science than art, with detailed record-keeping, very detailed understanding of glass chemistry and how heat performs in the kiln. There is always so much new going on in that world—new techniques and innovations… there’s always so much to learn.

Is there anything new you’re working on?

Indeed! I am just finishing up a whole batch of thirty bowls for the Museum of Fine Arts that are inspired by Monet colors and flavor (if I may). 
And for this year’s Somerville Open Studios—since this is its 20th year—I have been considering doing some Somerville-themed maps on glass. I have been thinking of recreating some old maps and screen-printing them on glass as wall-art. I very rarely do wall-art, but I think for this occasion it would be appropriate. With the Union Glass Company’s history right here in Somerville, I am thinking of some way to commemorate it and what better way than Somerville Open Studios? 
What are some of your past projects? Your favorite materials or colors or elements to work with?
My favorite pieces have to be my fruit bowls. They are light, whimsical, fragile-looking pieces but they are strong, hardworking, and they like their fruits! They are about 8-11" wide and 3" deep round bowls and are porous like corals… customers and friends call them splat bowls or coral bowls, and they are super popular. 
Blue is my favorite color, (in fact that is my favorite hashtag!) I flip from turquoise to cobalt between seasons, but I always have a steady supply of blues in my inventory. I love working with them. Mica looks good on blue, other glass looks good on blue, all colors of light look good on blue.  

What excites or challenges you about working with glass?

I make because I love to. I love how light travels through glass. I am fascinated by how heat shapes glass and renders glass powders into candy-like pieces of jewelry occasionally dinosaur-shaped. The erstwhile chemist in me is tickled to see the reaction of tin and sulphur when vanilla and turquoise glass interact and leave a thin deep red line along design lines. 
Challenges are plentiful! It’s glass—it breaks and sometimes even with the perfect score and many years of practice the perfect sheet of glass will just crack however it pleases. 
It cuts. The whole blood and sweat thing is real in my work. So. Many. Bandaids.
It’s expensive. So so expensive as a raw material. As is the equipment to do glasswork.
And glass is so heavy to carry to art shows! I envy you my paper-art friends, I envy you. 
But glass is lovely to work with, to look at, to own and use. It’s strong and fragile at the same time and I don’t think there are many things you can say that about. 
How do you find the work/life balance of making money and making art?  Do you have a particular routine for your art even if not daily?

That’s a trick question right? I’m a full-time working, multi-space volunteering, mom to a four-year-old human (and eight-year-old dog!) and a full-time artist. Of course there’s no balance in my life. Of course there’s never any time. There’s a very patient and understanding toddler who loves Mom’s glasswork. There’s putting one step in front of another. And there’s routine. I still try to make at least something every day, even if it’s a little bit, even if it’s super early morning or super late at night. Routine becomes everything, sometimes mundane feeds the creative. 

Tell us a bit about your background both in a general and artistic sense.

I evolved from an engineering/science background in my early career to being a marketer and consumer behaviorist. Never been to art school, but design has always been a fascination and is absolutely at the core of who I am and how I think and I’ve made sure it’s an intrinsic part of what I do.

Are there any other artists, writers, musicians, etc., who inspire you?

Oh so many. Frank Lloyd Wright and Piet Mondrian, both with their awareness and inclusiveness of nature in simple bold lines just absolutely fascinate me. Not sure if it’s an inspiration, but I’m surely a big fan of Alfred Basha’s work. Every time I see cheap imitations of birds-to-feathers or bear-in-mountain illustrations I cringe… the originals are his. Check it out if you get a chance. Finally I have to say my everyday inspiration is illustrator Emily McDowell. She’s fierce and honest, an artist and a businesswoman, and a force to be reckoned with. Her amazing designs and very lucid style of speaking to/about/from peoples’ points of view just tickles, stirs, shakes me every time!

Any thoughts on the Somerville creative scene? Favorite local places?

We moved to Teele Square in 2016, but we’ve been in the area longer. Among my favorite Somerville restaurants, Brass Union, La Brasa, & Juliet take the prize. We are big fans of Somerville brands Magnificent Muffins, Petsi Pies, and Union Square Donuts. Also Rosebud’s weekend brunch menu is pretty good as is the s’mores pie, but don’t crowd it too much, okay? (You gotta be careful praising things in public.)
Being in such a dense art community is exciting. Maybe it’s the circles we live in, but it seems at least every other person makes something, loves art, or is somehow deeply involved in the art world. It’s not unique to Somerville however. Our circles were very similar in Chicago and Pennsylvania and our previous lives. We’re happy; we are at home here.
Beyond Somerville Open Studios, Kolika’s work can be found online at; Instagram ; and