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Michael Tonder (Born 1954 in Winona, MN)

Recycling and ice are the key elements of my story.  For over twenty years I have been working exclusively with recycled glass.  The spectacle of flat sheets of ice covering lakes and rivers, breaking up in the spring and forming incredibly rugged landscapes inspired me to mimic this natural phenomenon in glass.  I experimented with different types of glass and found that quarter-inch plate glass gave me the color and texture I was after in my kiln-formed pieces. The subtle variations in the color of the plate glass paralleled the color shifts in ice formations.   After these discoveries, I decided to define a fairly narrow parameter for my work. I would use only recycled glass and the consistent inspiration would be ice and water.  Initially, this narrow focus felt a bit restrictive but as I continued to work within a defined range I became aware of my complete freedom to go deep, rather than broad.


I have been involved in the back to the land and environmental movements since the first Earth Day and the early Mother Earth News publications. The opportunity to merge my thrifty nature, environmental awareness and artistic vision into my glass sculptures continues to be a great ride.


In my studio on Thomas Lake, near Two Harbors, Minnesota, I work with a variety of recycled glass, kilns, a glass saw and a sandblaster to create one of a kind glass sculptures. Each individual piece of glass is hand-cut from flat sheets of reclaimed glass, carefully assembled, fired to over 1400 degrees F. and slowly cooled to room temperature in a process taking over three days. The resulting pieces are sawed, then carved and etched with a sandblaster giving a frosty surface. Within each form, I use internal lines, altered surface texture, light reflection, refraction, and diffusion, to create tension, stimulate curiosity, and engage the eye.


Completed works are inspired by my time as a forester and park manager, and years of observing the seasonal changes in Northern Minnesota. Scenes of transition and times of change are constant inspirations in my work. It is my intent to create a contemplative feeling that encourages examination, rather than demanding attention.


I have been a full-time glassworker since 1987. My work is sold at selected galleries and Art Festivals throughout the United States. Several awards have recognized my innovative approach to art glass and examples of my work are included in public and private collections worldwide.


In 2019, Tonder received the prestigious “George Morrison Artist Award” from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. This award is given to the artist who has made significant contributions to art in Minnesota … and it is a well-deserved award for his unique contributions to the art world over many, many years.

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