Very early on. In elementary school, I always wanted to be drawing or painting. Like a lot of children, I started sketching the characters from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strips. Snoopy was my favorite subject. I still adore Snoopy! He brings me to my "humble beginnings" happy place. I became more disciplined about sketching in high school and even took some watercolor classes with acclaimed Ventura County artist, Raymond Irving Ayers. With my father’s encouragement, I focused on illustration in college.
Then I did what most creatives do. I assumed that art wasn’t a viable profession and embarked on a career in the corporate world for many years in a variety of roles. I was a Client Service Account Manager at Technicolor's Buena Vista Entertainment division for 10 years. I also worked in the Supply Chain Industry for 17+ years in distribution, manufacturing, and merchandising.
After spending such a long time in the business world and staring down middle age, I definitely wasn’t doing what I loved and it was taking a serious toll on my health. It felt like I was hitting a brick wall on every level and so I had to reassess everything and prioritize the path to take for the second half of my life. That old adage, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” is spot on.
Returning to art was a slow process. It has been therapeutic on so many levels and remains so. I have a bit of a photographic memory and can tap into my mental archive at will, so that helped to get back on track. Initially, my artwork was only about expressing myself. I kept focused on that, began refining my skills, and diving further into my creativity. Eventually, others began noticing my work. Suddenly, I had interviews, exhibits, and people wanting my art for their collections and businesses. It felt like my art, mind, body, spirit, and spirit were all having a renaissance at the same time.
Nearly everyone inspires me in some way but M.C. Escher’s ability to blend monochromatic yet riveting imagery with a perspective that’s nearly mechanical in its precision comes to mind. But then, he was from The Netherlands. Has anyone ever heard of a bad Dutch artist?
At the opposite end of that artistic realm is Salvador Dali’s mind-blowing creativity and ability to bend and skew perspective without losing it. His work is absolutely jaw-dropping in every way. Spain has also produced some of the most innovative and skilled artists in history. I am a native Californian and have lived there all my life, so I’m also very appreciative of Spanish culture given that it had such a significant influence on California's artistic heritage.
Albrecht Dürer is another artist whose versatility and skill are nearly unmatched. I'm such a fan that I did a report on him back in high school! Dürer and Leonardo Da Vinci were both Renaissance artists. While DaVinci is a household name, I think that Art Historians should place Dürer on par with him. They were so similarly gifted in every conceivable medium and beyond art itself – in math, science, philosophy, and so much more.
Naturally, many glass artists have inspired me but one who doesn’t get enough credit is Clara Wolcott Driscoll. What Fred Astaire was to dance is what Louis Comfort Tiffany was to glass art. But what Ginger Rogers was to Fred Astaire is what Clara Wolcott Driscoll was to Louis Comfort Tiffany! She was the secret creative genius behind well over 100 extraordinary Tiffany lamps everyone covets and other items like desk and boudoir accessories. She started as a mosaicist but ended up managing some of the most vital parts of Tiffany’s glass studio. It’s not only a testament to her talent but also her tenacity because being a working female artist in her time was frowned upon.
As for my favorite genres of art, that’s like choosing a favorite child. Everything fascinates me, but Cubism, Fauvism, and Abstract Expressionism are high on the list.
Music is immensely important to me and my work. I listen to nearly every genre there is and you’ll frequently see that come through my art. My grandmother was a virtuoso violinist. My father played guitar and one of my brothers also plays guitar and is a luthier.
Some days, I’ll queue up heavy metal in my playlist. Other times, it’s an entire album of cultural drum music - whatever seems to fit my mood for the day. Working with music in the background lets me blur out the world’s distractions, stirs up the creative juices, and helps me focus.
Also, my husband and I often take our dogs out into the country, the mountains, or the beach, so I soak up all nature I can. It’s relaxing and gives my mind a little respite so it can be freed up to let the ideas flow. I visit museums and gardens every chance I get too. As an artist, you never know what will inspire you and spark your creativity, so I like to remain open to all experiences that stimulate my senses.
Most people mistake what stained glass is. Stained glass is colored glass. You could buy a square piece of colored glass, put it in a wood frame, and it would be a “stained glass window” without doing anything else to it. What most people think of as “stained glass” is church windows or Tiffany lamps. Technically, that’s leaded glass. Over the years, copper foil became a popular and less toxic alternative for lead came. Leaded glass requires that the cut edges of each glass piece are wrapped in either copper foil or lead came and then all the wrapped edges are soldered so the individual stained-glass pieces become one completed leaded glass artwork.
Traditional leaded glass art is designed to have light pass through it. There’s usually a light source behind it shining toward the viewer. It’s used in windows, lamps, suncatchers, etc. If you have a leaded stained-glass window installed, it’s something that you primarily enjoy during daylight hours. Most church windows also feature painted portraits on the glass itself. Stained glass lamps are usually more beautiful in the evening when you turn them on and the light source inside the shade passes through the glass.
My stained-glass art involves the direct method. That means the glass is affixed to a hard surface. It is not translucent with a light source behind it. Instead, my art utilizes the light that hits the work from all other directions and plays with the textures and the colors I’ve created via a variety of methods, including fused glass and kiln-formed glass.
When humans or animals are in my stained-glass art designs, they are not painted onto the glass like a church window, but created with many pieces of glass carefully cut, fused, assembled and placed to create their image. Whether it’s day or night, you can see the detail in my work because it doesn’t require having light pass through it, much like an oil painting can be seen day or night as long as there is light in the room where it’s hanging.
While viewing my art in person, it also quickly becomes evident that you can walk from side to side and you’ll notice different details as the light moves across the image based on your perspective. That’s not usually the case with leaded glass. My work is similar to leaded stained glass only because it uses stained glass that’s cut and assembled into a final image. Otherwise, my glass art is entirely different.
This is new territory, kind of like being an Impressionist or Cubist before there was a name for it. I don't know of anyone else who is doing what I do. I’ve had to develop my own techniques and use technology, tools, and materials in ways that haven’t been done before. It’s exciting, challenging, and rewarding. But at the same time, it’s not easy to categorize in a world where everyone wants things labeled.
When I’ve tried to describe it, some have mistakenly assumed what I do is a hobby craft, especially when the term “mosaic” is mentioned. My work is “mosaic” in that it involves cut pieces being set into place on a solid backing to form a specific image/design and grout is used. However, that’s where any similarities end. Mosaic art typically involves nearly the entire piece being comprised of materials that are cut and placed as they are – with no further modification of the medium other than cutting and affixing. Only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of pieces of glass in my art is applied in its original state.
Also, I often create my own glass. For stained glass that I purchase such as Bullseye, and Delphi glass sheets, I change the glass’s texture and color utilizing traditional techniques such as foiling, etching, and fusing as well as proprietary techniques I’ve developed. In my art, the glass is transformed to translate my specific creative objective for the piece, whereas mosaic pieces are more assembled into place vs. transformed.
My art is a bit like painting with glass, but it isn’t painted glass in a traditional stained-glass sense like one sees in church windows. You have to see my work in person to appreciate the level of detail and texture involved. Again, I can’t think of a label that is an appropriate fit.
It’s wonderful that there are so many art influencers and people out there sharing information online via social media platforms. These days, you can learn a lot of cool stuff by watching YouTube!
I do have social media accounts and post information about technique periodically. My social media links are here, for those who want to get the latest info about what I'm doing. I used to provide some online instructional material for stained glass art in the past but it’s tricky to balance that with having time to create new artwork and live a life that continues to inspire my art. Right now, that’s my focus.
However, the further I travel in my creative journey, the more I realize how vital it is to share the knowledge I've developed with the next generation of artists. After all, I didn't work this hard to be one of those artists who becomes a "How did they do that?" mystery. I love this art form and want to leave a legacy of great glass artwork, then pass the baton to the next generation of glass artists and say, "Take this and run with it. Make some mind-blowing stained glass art!" So, do I have plans for slowing down on my artist output right now so I can mentor others? No. Will I do so at some time in the future? Absolutely! There might be some stained glass classes, possibly some books, etc. down the road.