August 2019


Finding artistic expression in large-scale glass sculpture

by Liz Hillman EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer

“Forbidden,” light, color, and reflections created by Dr. Faktorovich in pink- gold glass tubes

Dr. Faktorovich in her studio transforming molten glass into art

A gallery goer observes a red glass sculpture that Dr. Faktorovich created using an oxidizing flame to activate copper metal embedded in clear glass.
Source (all):
Ella Faktorovich, MD


“The eye is fragile and yet resilient. So is glass; it’s fragile, yet it’s very strong.”
—Ella Faktorovich, MD

The eye is a magical space for light, color, and reflections, features that, among other things, attracted Ella Faktorovich, MD, to ophthalmology. It’s also what attracted her to glass sculpture as an artistic medium.
“The eye is fragile and yet resilient. So is glass; it’s fragile, yet it’s very strong,” Dr. Faktorovich said. “At the same time, it’s beautiful, but if broken, it’s dangerous. That’s true of the human body as well; it’s beautiful but sickness can mean danger.”
It was mid-point in her career when Dr. Faktorovich discovered that her passion for art, specifically photography, was a natural complement to her work in ophthalmology and vision. Over time, she learned about the camera, light, and color, but she felt something was missing: the third dimension. “A photographic endeavor results in a two-dimensional representation of an artist’s vision,” Dr. Faktorovich said. “Having been a surgeon for more than 25 years, my brain and hands are trained to create in three dimensions.”
Sculpture became her three-dimensional medium of artistic expression, and glass captured Dr. Faktorovich’s passion for light and color. “I find glass very exciting to work with because much like surgery, it requires technical mastery, and like the human eye, it is endlessly fascinating with the contrasts of strength and weakness, perfection and imperfection, reality and evanescence.”
Dr. Faktorovich attended classes at a San Francisco nonprofit glass studio and immersion courses in glasswork at Pilchuck Glass School and Corning Museum of Glass. It was there where she discovered an intriguing feature about glass—that its color can be influenced by metals that are embedded within it and are activated by exposure to a particular combination of flame components.
“What most people don’t know is glass can look clear until you expose it to flame, and the different properties of the flame, oxygen vs. propane, for example, will result in the glass becoming colored. You can use the flame to paint the glass from within,” Dr. Faktorovich said. “The flame is your creative tool.”
As a part of her signature creations, Dr. Faktorovich embeds glass elements in resin structures, which she also creates. “Resin is a whole different world; it’s a chemical world,” she said.
One of her sculptures, “Forbidden,” is a 300-lb, 8’ x 4’ pink resin base with pink-gold glass pieces that individually emerge from the resin. Dr. Faktorovich said this sculpture is a good example of why she chose resin as a base material for her glass pieces. “By using glass and resin side by side in a single sculpture, I am able to capture two different yet harmonizing qualities of light: its harsh crystalline quality when it interacts with glass and its mellow softness when it’s reflected from the smooth surface of the resin.”
Dr. Faktorovich exhibits her sculptures in venues ranging from galleries to museums, and although she sells some pieces, she primarily creates the works for artistic expression.
“I find that I’m a better surgeon after a weekend of immersing myself in my art; it’s analogous to cross training. It provides complete and total relaxation for the part of my mind that’s involved with medicine, so when I return to my practice on Monday, I’m reinvigorated and completely fresh to see my patients,” Dr. Faktorovich said.
Before taking up photography and large-scale glass sculpture, Dr. Faktorovich thought her hobby was doing research in ophthalmology and medicine, writing scientific articles. She said she now knows that a true hobby is when you nurture your soul to make yourself better at other things. “It has to be different than your work,” she said.

About the doctor

Ella Faktorovich, MD

Pacific Vision Institute
San Francisco

Contact information


Finding artistic expression in large-scale glass sculpture Finding artistic expression in large-scale glass sculpture
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