AREtsy Featured Member: Glassbead

AREtsy is a team made up of so many wonderful artists. We have painters, jewelry designers, lampwork artists, paper artists, fiber artists, supply vendors and so on. As our team grew larger it was only obvious to us that we needed to begin to feature the amazing artists that make up the group. One of our best supporters and most active voice in many forum discussions about promoting AREtsy has been Laurie of Glassbead.etsy.com. I could not help but get excited when she was drawn out of the hat to be featured first on our blog. Here goes…

Tell us a bit about your yourself, affiliations, creations, influences, etc:

Hello, my name is Laurie Ament. I’m a lampwork glass bead maker living in Little Rock, Arkansas. My business is called Isinglass Design. I’m a new member of the International Society of Glass Beadmakers, and a self- representing artist- SRA # A39

Isinglass Design glass beads are handmade using the centuries-old lampworking process. I began experimenting with hot glass with my daughter in 1999, so I’ve been making glass beads about eight years, and jewelry for six. Today, I continue to find glass, with its malleable colors and endless possibilities of form, to be an ideal vehicle of creative expression. When I found I had too many beads around, I had to start doing something with them all, so I began to make jewelry pieces out of them.

I like making the beads better than making jewelry, but it can be fun making them to use in a specific jewelry design. Often bead making and designing go hand in hand. I find that if I don’t have a picture in my head of what I’ll do with the beads, I often come up with sets that don’t make sense. I do have some special designs that I use non-traditional sets for such as my mosaic necklaces and asymmetrical designs. But I love making one-off pieces like pendants or fish the best. They allow me the most artistic freedom.

One of the great things about working with glass is that there are so many techniques to learn. And there is an element of surprise to almost everything. The colors react and reticulate with each other in unexpected ways, so there are often “happy accidents” when you open the kiln several hours later.

There are so many influences I could point to over the years, from my mother’s constant craft projects to my childhood in New Orleans, the work of other hot glass workers and onward. It seems like every time I leave the house there is something out there that gives me a new idea. Even tv shows can do it- color combinations, what people are wearing, etc. Glass has become sort of my obsession, so I’d love to visit one of the great glass centers such as Venice and the island of Murano. Of course, I’d settle for Seattle, city of my birth.

One of my secret goals in selling is to keep things affordable so that everybody feels like they can have artisan made glass jewelry. I love to see pieces go away. And the farther they travel the better. I sell personally locally, so some of my customers wear my pieces when they see me. That’s always a thrill.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

I sell my beads at our local farmer’s market at the River Market, do demonstrations and classes. I have also just started a job at a new natural foods store called The Station. I’ve worked with and eaten natural foods for most of my adult life, so I’m pretty excited about it.

What first made you want to become an artist?

I actually don’t consider myself an artist, but an artisan. Fine distinction, I know.

I fell into making glass beads when a Lark Books catalogue came into my hands. At the time they were selling a book called Making Glass Beads by Cindy Jenkins with a kit. It took me almost two years to actually purchase it. My daughter was in high school, so we worked together to learn, one of us observing and reading while the other tried not to get burned! She is the real artist; I don’t think I would have been able to learn so easily without her help.

I have always loved glass, and used to sit for hours watching the glass blowers at the Renaissance fair where I worked in the office. I actually have been able to apply a few of the techniques I saw there to my small work.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.

Lampworking is basically just melting glass over an open flame. I use glass rods about the circumference of a pencil, and melt them in my hothead torch. Most of the glass I use is made in Italy or Germany. Each color of glass is individually applied around a steel rod called a mandrel. There are many things you can add to the glass for different effects- I use a lot of silver foil and enamels.

Much of my inspiration comes from picture books. I particularly like landscapes and sea life for color ideas. I also look at things like paintings and my trusty color wheel. I find it hard to think outside my personal box without a lot of ideas from elsewhere. Seeing folks at the farmer’s market really helps- people who don’t understand the process often come up with ideas that may at first seem un-doable. But I’m willing to try almost anything. This is how the mermaids, seahorses, wearable bottles and rhinoceros came into being.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

A beautiful silk scarf dyed by my daughter.

Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.

Books: This is hard for me. I read all the time- mostly fiction. My criteria are- written by a woman, written by someone in another country, or- my weak spot- a mystery. I really like the ones written by British women. Oh I do love books by Anita Shreve too. Has she written anything new lately?

Movies: well, The Princess Bride, Benny and Joon, Life is Beautiful, and what’s that Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts thing? I don’t go to the theater, and rarely watch movies at home, so I’m quite a bit behind the times.

Music: I’d have to say Connie Dover, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, and a host of other folky or rocky stuff. Oh, and I’ll throw in T. Lowerre, who lives right in this house!


1000 markets, where I have another shop- http://www.1000markets.com/

Lampworketc.- http://www.lampworketc.com/forums/

Bead Artists- http://www.beadartists.org/

Deanna Griffin Dove’s website for tutorials -http://www.betterbeadmaking.com/tutorials.html

Just about anything with glass or beadmaking info.

How do you promote your work?

This is not my forte. The farmer’s market works pretty well, but does nothing for me online. Online I have a flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/isinglassdesign/

and a blog http://isinglassdesign.blogspot.com/

I just joined a beadmakers blog ring, so we’ll see how that works out.

What are your favorite things about belonging to AREtsy?

It’s great hearing about all the different things happening in Arkansas. And it’s been wonderful meeting some of the people. It makes me feel like I kind of belong to an artist’s community. And I love that everyone is so supportive of each other.

In ten years I'd like to be...

I’m no good at planning ahead!! But I would like to teach more, demo more, learn more (a lot more). And I’m working on all that. It can be hard, and I need to have a bit of a shell around me for all the rejection, but I’m trying.

And lastly, why buy artisan made glass and jewelry?

Because it’s one-of-a-kind, artisan jewelry is made with a lot of thought, talent and even love, and that makes it so much more special than production stuff. When you wear it, you feel a special connection to the one who made it. When you meet or talk to the artisan, you may get an interesting story that you will think of every time you wear the piece. Nobody will have something quite like your piece.

And, it supports artists, who usually need the help.


Sunny said...

Great feature! It's so much fun to learn all about fellow AREtsians.

idyll hands said...

I can't wait to learn more about future featured members!

kellyvanhook said...

I love the new feature! Laurie, you are awesome!

glassbead, isinglass design said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Idyll, you did a great job!

Islandgirl said...

Great article!

Think the movie might be Notting Hill... I only see movies on TV as I choke at $10 for a ticket and the closest theater is a couple of hours away!

Does your daughter still make beads?


Eileen said...

awesome laurie...way to go...great article...