Vaz Zastera — Glass Art by The Wonderful Wizard of Vaz - theHumm March 2023

Vaz Zastera — Glass Art by The Wonderful Wizard of Vaz - theHumm March 2023

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

Polymath or Renaissance Man — which is the better descriptor for a whirling dervish of creativity who creates stunning glass sculptures from his home on the banks of the Rideau River in Burritts Rapids? Vaz Zastera is one of the most energetic and prolific artists I have interviewed over the past quarter century as theHumm’s Intrepid Arts Reporter.

Zastera’s unique glass sculptures are the epitome of his creative endeavours. So far. They defy description. They have to be seen to be believed. And they have to be viewed from all angles in decent light to reveal the incredible complexity and excruciating exactitude that is invested in each piece. Each involves hundreds of steps and takes from three months to a year to complete. Vaz uses the highest quality optical glass crystal, and cuts, grinds, polishes and laminates the individual pieces together, working from the centre outwards.

Many of his glass creations are commissioned pieces, both private and corporate. In 2011, Zastera was honoured to be commissioned by Forefactor Toronto to design and create custom one-of-a-kind glass sculptures as awards for the Canadian Investment Technology Awards, held in Toronto. He created the awards as unique cold-worked optic crystal sculptures, based on his original design called “The Egg.”

Some of his most spectacular architectural sculptures were inspired by driving past a new thirty-story tower with an all-glass exterior in downtown Ottawa. He describes his inspiration thus: “Shivers ran up and down my spine. It came to me that day that I would create scaled sculptures of similar form and design. I grew up surrounded by architecture as my father, and now my brother, are architects. Unconsciously, I absorbed the imagery.”

Compelled to Create

Zastera generously and gratefully acknowledges the enormous contribution that his father, Vaclav Zastera Sr. (1930–2012), made to both his and his brother’s artistic careers. On his informative website at , Vaz devotes a link to his father’s life and art. The family left Czechoslovakia just ahead of the Russian occupation when Vaz was five years old. He thought he was embarking on a camping holiday. After high school in Almonte, he tried to heed his father’s practical advice to not pursue a career as an artist, but quickly discovered that electrical engineering was not his calling. He switched to music — playing, writing and performing it, but eventually realized he didn’t have the passion for it that would propel him to be among the best.

Fortuitously he landed a job as an apprentice master optician (precision glass machinist) with a leading company making precision optics such as glass pieces for satellites and the aerospace industry. Thrift can be a gift. Vaz couldn’t stand to throw away glass with flaws or that was not up to spec, so he started upcycling by creating optical glass jewellery. Eureka! — the master optician became an artist. He considers himself very fortunate to have discovered his true passion by the time he was forty, and thinks maybe glass flows in his veins.

Customers loved the way the jewellery sparkled and changed colours in the light. As demand grew, Vaz purchased grinding and polishing machines at an auction, set up his own shop at home and started to make his own pieces for use in the jewellery. He experimented with various cutting and layering techniques, and explored and manipulated the reflective and refractive affinities of the glass to maximize their spectacular effects. His ambition to create larger pieces led him to attend two courses at the internationally renowned Corning Museum of Glass.

Zastera’s mastery of the “black art” of optical contacting caused a real buzz at the Museum. Even experienced glass artists thought he was somehow faking it. He was invited to demonstrate “a process by which two surfaces are adhered together at room temperature without adhesive or heat”, which is why he identifies as a cold glass artist. The two pieces of optical glass must be free of all molecular and chemical contaminates prior to attempting contact. The process necessitates many, many steps of meticulous polishing and cleaning, and unlimited patience. An informative video overview of Vaz’s presentation is available at .

His demonstration was particularly fortuitous because it resulted in an ongoing collaboration with the late Jirí Harcuba, a widely respected Czech artist and educator whose specialty was portraiture in engraved glass. Zastera is rightfully proud of the resulting pieces. He was also invited to present his lecture/demonstration at the Glass Art Society’s 40th annual conference in 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.

What’s Next?

Years ago Vaz expressed his creativity in a different medium, again inspired by his distaste of waste. At the time he was moonlighting at a do-it-yourself facility where customers could paint their own cars. Intrigued by the high-gloss enamel automotive paint destined for disposal, he began experimenting with a variety of materials on which to paint. Another Eureka moment occurred when he began painting on galvanized sheet metal. The resulting smoothness caused unique multidimensional interactions, creating complex compositions that invite several levels of interpretation. He worked in this medium for many years until his glass epiphany.

The day before I interviewed him, he had just achieved a milestone in his latest scientific/artistic/optical adventure. Vaz is working with the team at Voltari Marine Electric who just made waves at the Miami International Boat Show with their fully electric (i.e. zero emissions), carbon fibre Voltari 260 — “the world’s first electric performance boat” . Vaz loves boating and he loves technology, so one can only wonder how this latest passion will electrify his art.

In the meantime, you don’t have to wait until the next Merrickville Artist’s Guild Studio Tour to see Vaz Zastera’s stunning glass sculptures and jewellery in person. Consult his coordinates on the back of his Artist’s Trading Card to request a visit to Zartwerks Studio. In his typical high-energy approach, he totally remodeled his former bungalow on the banks of the historic Rideau River into an artistic and architectural masterpiece of its own, with three studios. His state-of-the-art cold glass studio incorporates traditional cold working tools and modern-day precision glass machines. There is also a wonderful display of his paintings, and even a few of his father’s. It is unfortunate that he will not have nine lives in which to explore and master all the artistic and scientific possibilities that capture his imagination.

Artist Trading Card

WHO Vaz Zastera

WHAT Glass Artist, Renaissance Man

WHERE Zartwerks Studio, Burritts Rapids;;; 724-7014

WHEN By appointment,;724-7014

WHY “Working in multiple media gives me full range to express my creativity, particularly with the complexities of glass where the interaction and play of light provides depth and beauty.”


Vaz Zastera — Glass Art by The Wonderful Wizard of Vaz - theHumm March 2023

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

Polymath or Renaissance Man — which is the better descriptor for a whirling dervish of creativity who creates stunning glass sculptures from his home on the banks of the Rideau River in Burritts Rapids? Vaz Zastera is one of the most energetic and prolific artists I have interviewed over the past quarter century as theHumm’s Intrepid Arts Reporter.

Zastera’s unique glass sculptures are the epitome of his creative endeavours. So far. They defy description. They have to be seen to......


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