Yaffa Sikorsky-Todd was born in Tel Aviv. After completing her BFA in Ceramics at the Philadelphia College of Art, she worked as a studio potter for two years. She began graduate school at the Rochester Institute of Technology on January, 1975, majoring in glass. During her second year at RIT, she began extensive investigation of opal glass systems, specifically fluorine opal glasses which became the subject of her Master’s thesis. During the summer of 1978, Yaffa became the second woman to teach glass at the Penland School of Crafts. Since then, both she and Jeff have taught glass together many times.
Jeffrey M. Todd, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, majored in jewelry and glass at Southern Illinois University. He became interested in glass in the early 1970s, taking classes at SIU and at the Penland School of Crafts. His skills with metal-working and glass blowing may be seen in many of his pieces. His talent for design, drawing and equipment building made him a perfect match for Yaffa. They met in 1980, when Yaffa was building her studio and Jeff stopped by to see if he could help. Within a few months they were working together, a few years later they married…
When they first began working together in glass, they made goblets and perfumes. They next added lamp worked flower images to the bottles which evolved into larger glass forms as the scenes were extended to include mountains and trees. These original pieces were approximately 12” x 12”. When Yaffa and Jeff were invited to a show in 1987, they were encouraged to scale down their glass forms to a paperweight format. This project became their “Memories” series.
In the “Memories” series, vertical glass scenes are presented with multiple layers of imagery to create intricate self-contained worlds. To achieve the finished pieces the artist uses furnace glass and a glory hole with a combination of hot glass techniques and lampworking. All of the colors and crystal glasses are melted by Yaffa in the studio, using formulas that she has developed over many years. Yaffa and Jeff make all of their own millefiori canes. The millefiori canes are pulled, cut, preheated and placed one-at-a-time on the hot glass. With their colored canes, the images are drawn and dotted on the glass using a torch. Designs that are viewed from both sides have to be made using a reverse and positive method, slowly building up the colors to create the final image. The piece is then encased in crystal, flattened and put in an annealer to cool down over many days. Once cold, the weight is machine-ground to its final shape and polished.
Yaffa and Jeff’s “Nature weights” are traditional style paperweights. By using the lens-shaped horizontal form, they create a window for the viewer to look through. Most of their images come from childhood memories and their present environment. They use the gardens around their house, the river behind their studio and the magnificent North Carolina Mountains for their inspiration.
The “Still Life” series is a new direction for the paperweights that they have been creating. This series looks at the traditional heritage in painting. We have reworked the idea to apply to “torch-worked-images” inside glass.
As individuals, we each design and produce our own work, yet we also enjoy working collaboratively. We are interested in creating pleasing, well-balanced forms which retain the feeling of flow that is inherent in hot glass, while also imparting a feeling of life. To achieve an artistic harmony and overcome the enormous technical difficulty of executing these pieces, we must work as one, in perfect harmony.
Both of us are affected by the beauty of a simple flower, each having a rich appreciation of Nature’s garden. We use Nature as a springboard to rise beyond the reality of time, to freeze for a moment something that is beautiful and fleeting. We are not attempting to copy Nature, rather to create something that is a fitting tribute to her.