Academics Glass

Bachelor’s program

BFA | 4-year program

Glass is a dynamic medium with limitless possibilities and a surprising amount of impact in the worlds of art and design. As a Glass major, you'll work with professors and visiting artists in the Hot Shop and beyond to develop your skills in glass blowing, mold making, casting and cold working. Not only does this hands-on training lead to a mastery of skills, it addresses the ever-present question of how material and concept inform one another and lays the foundation for a well-rounded professional studio practice.

Based on the strength of their experience at RISD, Glass alumni tend to remain closely connected with the department. Whether returning as visiting artists and critics or providing internships for current students, they help influence subsequent generations. Accomplished alumni such as Dale Chihuly, Dan Clayman, Karen Lamonte, Judith Schaechter, Tavares Strachan, Bohyun Yoon, Toots Zynsky and many others continue to push the boundaries of the medium and make enormous contributions to advancing the role of glass in contemporary art and design.

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • demonstrate technical acuity in glass processes, including casting, moldmaking, hot glass work and coldworking.
  • identify, locate and refer to appropriate precedents in developing a body of work and position it within historical and contemporary fine arts contexts.
  • exhibit team working skills in the creative process, handling of materials and the use and maintenance of glass facilities and equipment.
  • consistently utilize comprehensive safety practices in all aspects of studio work.
  • recover gracefully from failure, understanding it as a natural part of the creative process and an opportunity for learning and improving.
  • demonstrate conceptual problem-solving skills while employing a rigorous methodology that guides the development of original works of art.

Inspiring community

The nature of glass necessitates collaboration among a close-knit community of artists exploring the same medium from a wide range of perspectives. Glass fosters close interactions among undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and visiting artists. Studio work, critiques, seminars and both group and individual projects support full engagement in the exciting dialogues surrounding contemporary art, sculpture, craft and design.

Learning environment

Approximately 30 undergraduates and grad students work in the department's hot shop, a custom facility offering a half-ton continuous-melt glass furnace, a 700-lb. casting furnace, an extensive cold shop, 15 computer programmed kilns and a well-rounded casting facility. One of the favorite features of the department is the Degree Program Workshop—a vibrant series of presentations by visiting artists, critics and curators. Direct interaction with this amazing range of professionals offers students an ideal way to learn about contemporary art, glass and professional practice.

Undergraduate student work

Curriculum

In the first year of the program, sophomores develop conceptual problem solving skills by making work in response to specific assignments and gaining a technical foundation in glass blowing, cold working, mold making and casting. Juniors continue to develop a conceptual and critical vocabulary through rigorous studio work. An intermediate glassblowing studio and a glass history course help refine and strengthen students' understanding of the medium and its origins.

Foundation year

Fall
Drawing I
Design I
Spatial Dynamics I
First-year Literature Seminar
Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Drawing II
Design II
Spatial Dynamics II
Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds

Sophomore

Fall
Glass Studio 1A
Glass Casting—Moldmaking
Glass Coldworking
Liberal Arts electives
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Glass Studio 1B
Beginning Glassworking
Liberal Arts electives
Open elective

Junior

Fall
Glass 2A Studio
Glass Degree Program Workshop 2A
History of Glass
Liberal Arts elective
Open elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Glass Studio 2B
Glass Degree Program Workshop 2B
Intermediate and Advanced Glassblowing
Liberal Arts electives

Senior

Fall
Glass Studio 3A
Glass Degree Program Workshop 3A
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Glass Degree Project 3B
Glass Degree Program Workshop 3B
Liberal Arts elective

Thesis project

Throughout the year seniors work on self-directed projects as they define and refine their thesis. Through individual and group critiques with faculty, peers, visiting artists and critics, students develop a significant body of work. Thesis work is presented in public exhibitions both on and off campus. The culmination of the thesis year provides students with the resources needed to prepare for professional practice in the field.

Application requirements

  1. First-year applicants

    You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $60 to use this service, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the first-year application here.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the transfer application here.

  2. First-year applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common Application, Parchment, email or mail. If your academic credentials are not written in English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator prior to submission.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

    Transfer applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts covering at least the last three full years of academic work completed. This should include all college transcripts and, if applicable, your secondary school transcript. If you attend a school where the language of instruction is not English, your academic credentials must be translated into English by an approved translator.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

  3. Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    RISD is offering all applicants (domestic and international) the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting the test-optional option under the "Testing" portion within the RISD section of the Common Application. For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates.

    RISD’s institution code number for the SAT is 3726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

    Transfer credits

    Some Advanced Placement (AP), A-Level classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) credits can be used toward RISD liberal arts requirements. First-year students can transfer a maximum of nine credits from AP courses with a score of 4 or 5, A-Level classes with an earned grade of C or higher or Higher Level IB scores of 5, 6, or 7. RISD will not accept AP or IB credit from art or studio classes. View RISD's full transfer credit policy.

    English language proficiency tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since English proficiency is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants are required to meet a minimum score of at least 93 on the TOEFL, a 6.5 on the IELTS, or 115 on Duolingo.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must email the Admissions Office at admissions@risd.edu to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible for a waiver.

  4. Portfolio Submission

    Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. Once you've started your application to RISD in the Common Application, you will be directed to SlideRoom, a separate online platform, where you will upload your portfolio.

    What to include

    Your selected work should reflect a full range of your ideas, curiosity, experimentation and experience in creating and making. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

    We strongly recommend that you include some examples that involve drawing from direct observation (rather than from imagination, a photograph, or video). Drawing is a fundamental tool for visual makers from initial concept to execution, so it is valuable for reviewers to see examples of your experience with and approach to drawing.

    While the majority of your portfolio should feature finished pieces, we suggest including some research or preparatory work in up to three—but no more than three—portfolio uploads/slides. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    Documentation

    Finally, we strongly discourage including excessive visual elements and text descriptions in a single slide submission. These are difficult to view and are likely to exceed the allowed submission limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can be submitted across multiple slide submissions, combined into one composite including no more than 3 images or in a single video upload. Editing is an important part of curating your portfolio. You may need to devise creative solutions to best show your work within the limits of submission guidelines.

    Our recommended file formats are: jpeg, png, gif, mp4 and mov. These formats are most compatible with SlideRoom. Google Drive or zipped files are discouraged.

    You may be interested in attending or watching the recording of one of our Portfolio Tips webinars for more advice on how to approach your RISD application portfolio. 

    The RISD Assignment is no longer part of the application

    After extensive research and discussion, it has become evident that requiring the RISD Assignment functions as a barrier for applicants and is in direct conflict with RISD’s Social Equity and Inclusion action plan. To provide more access and equity in our admissions process, we have made the decision to remove the RISD Assignment as an application requirement beginning with the 2022/23 application cycle. We will continue to prioritize the portfolio when evaluating the visual component of an applicant’s candidacy.

  5. First-year applicants

    If you are applying as a first-year, RISD requires the Common Application Personal Essay (up to 650 words). You will find the writing prompts in the Writing section of the Common Application.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in your essay.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit a written statement, up to 650 words, using the prompt indicated below. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    • Provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve by joining us at RISD.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a dynamic position in the samples you submit.

  6. Letters of recommendation can be very helpful to your application. One letter is required, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

    First-year applicants

    Please use the Common Application to invite your recommendation writers to submit letters through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to admissions@risd.edu.

    Transfer applicants

    Please have your recommendation writers submit their letters directly to admissions@risd.edu. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below).