Bill and Susan Reese were introduced by a mutual friend who knew of their common love of glass work. Susan studied glass at the School for American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Bill fell in love with stained glass at an early age and has spent countless hours studying the works of the masters in many of the great cathedrals in Western Europe.
Bill and Susan married in October of 2010. Their studio is located in their home, which they share with their two cats and a rat named Lieutenant Fuzzypants.
Q: What convinced you to settle on glass as an artistic medium?
B: I’ve tried so many things over the years. Music, drawing, writing. I’ve always felt a need for a creative outlet. But I’ve had to be honest with myself; I simply wasn’t that good at those other things. Glass was a different story from the beginning. I started with, and still favor, stained glass windows. I discovered that I worked well with glass and had a natural eye for how it would fit together, and how the pieces would compliment each other.
S: For me it was almost accidental. I had been accepted into Rochester Institute of Technology’s Technical Photography program. Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I realized that I was much more interested in the fine arts. I was able to re-apply to RIT’s School for American Craftsmen, and was accepted into the Glass program.
Q: What, in your opinion, makes glass unique as an art medium?
B: As far as stained glass, it’s backwards … well, maybe ‘reverse’ is a better word … from other light/color mediums, such as painting or drawing, in that it’s typically meant to be lit from behind. You need to imagine where it will be placed. The finished piece will look dramatically different in the morning and in the evening if it’s used as an easterly-facing window, for instance. It’ll take on a whole new dimension even if it’s raining outside. And that’s one of the fantastic things about glass, in that it’s tangible and always changing. The glass itself interacts with its environment, or even the perspective of the viewer. A good artist will take all of these factors into account.
S: Glass itself is such a versatile material. There are so many ways to use glass- architectural, functional, decorative. The techniques for working with glass are so varied that I can’t imagine using any other media. With glass, there is always something new to learn, to try. I love the fact that cold glass is so unyielding and unforgiving, and yet hot glass is so malleable. And yet it is the same material.
Q: Aren’t artists sort of solitary creatures? I mean, you don’t normally hear of a famous painting being a collaborative effort. How do you manage to work together so well?
B: What you’re saying isn’t entirely true. I mean, Lennon and McCartney were certainly at their best in collaboration.
S: Bonnie and Clyde, too.
B: Well, yeah. Astaire and Rogers.
S: It does take two to tango.
B: Precisely. But I think we work well together in that we have a deep respect for our differences and particular talents. In an over-simplified way of putting it, when we started working together, I had no real experience with warm or hot glass work. What I brought to the table was my stained glass passion and experience.
S: I’m not sure that that is true. Often, you hear of teams- look at Chihouly and William Morris, Libensky and Brychtova, Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick- I think with Craft, you find there is more of a team effort. While one person may “own” the primary vision, it will often take a team to bring that vision to life. I agree that a big part of why we work together so well is respect. We both respect that we are different people with different ideas and different skills. From a design sense, I find it very inspiring when we will present the other with a sketch, and we both take it to our respective corners and work on it, and then come together to really flesh out the final idea. Being able to honestly communicate what we like about each others’, as well as our own designs really allows us to be successful collaborators.