Meet the Artist – Marzena Ostromecka

A smiley young white woman with short brown hair sits at her desk, working on vibrant glass sculptures

This month we meet glass artist and Neuk member Marzena Ostromecka, whose playful work adorns our exhibition poster, and will be exhibited at this year’s Glass Biennale. Marzena chats to Elspeth about ‘coming out’ as an autistic artist, her drive to experiment, and the inspirational behind her latest piece.

Interview by Elspeth Wilson


Hi Marzena! It’s great to be able to speak with you about your art, especially as we are really excited about seeing it appear in the upcoming Neuk Collective exhibition! Does being part of a collective of neurodivergent artists impact your practice or your work at all?

First and foremost, I wanted to express my gratitude for inviting me to be your ‘Meet the Artist’ featured person. I am thrilled to be able to talk about my artist journey on the Neuk Collective platform.

Initially, I was excited about this opportunity, but I quickly experienced a wave of fear, doubt, and anxiety leading to my default freeze response. My expectations were high, and I wanted to present myself in the best possible light.

A photo of the artist at work in her studio. She is a young white woman wth short brown hair, wearing a green top and red apron. She is working on small glass sculptures.
Marzena in her studio. Photo credit Mike Smith

I saw this interview as my coming out as an autistic artist, which felt like a huge responsibility. I instantly felt overwhelmed. However, I reminded myself that I am part of a tribe, and decided to embrace honesty and vulnerability. Knowing I belong to a collective of neurodivergent artists gives me the courage to speak openly about myself without masking or pretending. A year ago, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable calling myself an artist. Just over two years ago I was also diagnosed autistic. This is all very new to me, but identifying as an autistic artist allows me to express my creativity with more self-compassion.

Could you tell us a bit more about your journey with developing your art? We know interactivity is really important to your work – how do you make this inclusive?

In 2018 I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with an MFA in Glass. After two intense years of studying, experimenting and making I produced my creative child Play_Zone, an interactive glass instrument. At that time, my part-time job involved supporting autistic adults with learning disabilities, many of whom were non-verbal with strong sensory needs. I was inspired by the way they experienced the world and I wanted to make something they could enjoy interacting with.

The music interpreted as colour in glass was the starting point of my work but what really made it special was the interactive element that was designed to give autonomy and choice to the spectator. Play_Zone brought joy to many diverse audiences and validated my need to connect with the viewers through my art.

Inclusivity is of paramount importance to me. This is probably the main reason I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself an artist initially because much of the art world is seen as exclusive, precious, and fragile, targeting a niche audience. I didn’t want to exclude anyone from experiencing my work. I had no specific target audience and I wanted to connect through the universal language of play.


A woman sitting in front of a sculpture of 9 glass candlestick forms, all lit up in different colours. She is operating a kind of glass pad to change the colours. There is a purple panel with text reading: "I enjoy surrending some control of my work once it's completed and seeing it come to life through others' experiences". - Marzena Ostromecka

You work with glass a lot but you use other mediums too. Can you tell us a bit about your process as an artist using different media?

I pursued glass because I fell in love with the medium through designing stained glass windows but somewhere along the way I discovered that connecting and communicating with others was of far greater importance to me as a maker than making pretty things. Having said that, I love pretty things and I think in colours so this of course has an impact on the aesthetic aspects of my work but this alone is not enough. I stand by my values and my work reflects that.

While I appreciate the aesthetic properties of glass, I am not confined to traditional studio glass techniques. I like to explore innovative techniques such as 3D modelling and printing.

Sustainability is a core value of mine, leading me to repurpose and reimagine glass forms and materials from previous projects or to incorporate elements of found objects in my work. I embrace experimentation with various glass techniques, including glass casting, fusing, slumping, painting, and copper foiling. Additionally, I incorporate mixed media such as metal elements of copper and brass sheet and rods, manipulating and bonding them together to expand the creative possibilities of my work.

I am also interested in using electronics to enhance interactivity and audience participation. I enjoy surrendering some control of my work once it’s completed and seeing it come to life through others’ experiences.


Two glass sculptures - one that looks like a lamp with an eye where the bulb would be, and another that looks like a mouth with a giant pink tongue. The text reads: "I find intriguing parallels between the experiences of autistic individuals and cats, and I am continuously inspired and amused by the unique ways cats navigate the world" - Marzena Ostromecka

Your series ‘Decatstracted’ has been selected for the British Glass Biennale this year which is very exciting (and the work will also be in the upcoming Neuk Collective exhibition)! Congratulations! What inspired this series and how has your experience been so far as you prepare for the Biennale?

This series of five sculptures was inspired by feline senses. I find intriguing parallels between the experiences of autistic individuals and cats, and I am continuously inspired and amused by the unique ways cats navigate the world.

This body of work is a tribute to my beloved cat Miya and a celebration of her sister Velcro’s fragile life. We lost Miya suddenly two years ago due to a heart condition, a loss that hit me hard and took time to process. A year later, Velcro was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. My role now, as a cat mum, is to keep her well and comfortable for as long as possible. This can be an all-consuming and upsetting experience, so channelling these emotions through art helps me process difficult feelings.


Five glass sculptures all playing on cat senses - a tongue, a nose, a tail, ears, and an eye.
Decatstructed

Despite all the grief, I had a lot of fun imagining and creating the ‘Decatstructed’ series. I surprised myself with the whimsical outcome. I aimed to embrace sensory and interactive elements in these pieces. They feature different textures, incorporate some mechanical movement, and one of my sculptures even includes real cat whiskers. I’m still developing the digital interactivity that will accompany the sculptures but at this point all I can say is that it involves the sounds of cats.

I was initially concerned about the fragility of my glass sculptures whilst on display and wanted to protect them from being touched and potentially damaged. However, I decided that providing an interactive experience for the viewer was more important to me as an artist. I trust the audience will be gentle with these delicate creatures and will approach them with curiosity and respect. I am excited to be sharing my work and hope the audience will find it amusing and fun.


9 glass sculptures, like tall candlesticks, all lit up in different colours
Play_Zone

You can see more of Marzena’s work on her website and social media:

Website: www.cooljazzcats.com

Instagram: @m.ostromecka


Photos of work courtesy and copyright of the artist. Portrait photos by Mike Smith.