Meet the DC-based artist who showcases her Jewish heritage through handmade menorahs

Local resident Nancy Wasserman creates glass Judaica in the form of mezuzahs and menorahs. In honor of Hanukkah, we spoke with her about the intersection of religion, art and tradition.

blue, orange and black menorahs
Photo courtesy of Nancy Wasserman

Throughout her life, Nancy Wasserman has explored a variety of art forms. From her grandmother’s use of lacing as meditation to her more than 20 years as a potter, she has experience with a variety of techniques. 

Yet it wasn’t until 15 years ago that she began glass fusing—the process by which different forms and colors of glass are bonded together at a high temperature—ultimately creating her company, Glitzy Glass

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In addition to jewelry, hair accessories and keychains, Wasserman creates mezuzahs, which are parchments contained in a decorative case inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, found in the entrance of a home, as well as 10 to 12 menorahs every year, ranging in price from $175 to $500.  

In honor of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, we chatted with Wasserman about the true meaning behind her craft. 

When did you first start making your glass Judaica?
I was a potter for 20 years, and I owned a gallery for 10. Then I took up glass about 15 years ago. My heritage is in Judaica, because I am very involved with the history of my religion and my family. My grandmother lived in Boston during WWII, but the rest of my family were part of the Holocaust. While she was worried about her family members, she participated in  lace-making as meditation. Now I put pieces of her lace in all of my Judaica. I want the history of our lives to translate. 

This year, for the first time, I did triangular menorahs, and I did ones that are flat and go in a beautiful piece of cedar. The candle holders are in front of the wood, which can then be taken out and used as a serving platter. Then with my mezuzahs, I leave them open on the top and bottom because I want it to symbolize a flow of energy, specifically in people’s rooms. I want people to be interactive with religion, to feel the ability to let go of their bad thoughts and to truly cleanse. 

Talk to me about the process of constructing each piece.
I fuse glass. So with glass blowing, you use really hot glass, but for this it’s warm. I take very big sheets of glass, some can be $300 a sheet. Then I include dichroic glass and I etch the lace into that. With these flat menorahs, they take a long time. I fire them several times, once for the lace, once for the thin glass, then another time for the bigger sheet. From there, I have to form it into my desired shape. 

What’s your favorite part of making menorahs in the Washington, DC region?
Providing them to people, especially during the holidays. I love seeing people embrace our heritage with my designs. My most popular item is probably the mezuzahs because they are so unique. People don’t always know why we have these things [mezuzahs and menorahs] in our houses, and I’m happy I get to talk to them about it. 

How are you celebrating Hanukkah this year?
On the first night, I’ll be at the market. Then on the second night, I will celebrate it with my new granddaughter, who is 1 year old. I recently moved here from Hawaii, where I was teaching art classes, to be closer to my children and grandchildren. The rest of my family is on a cruise celebrating in the Bahamas somewhere, but I’ll be with the new baby. 

Celebrating Hanukkah this week? Click here to see local events happening around town for the holiday.

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