I’m JC Herrell. I live in Wisconsin with my husband, a massage therapist & energy worker, and I am a glass artist. Because this blog is about the creative process I will let the story of my growth into a full-time, self supporting artist serve as my introduction. Living the transformation was, in many ways, an introduction to myself. And it is a story I’m still writing. I’m glad to share some of that story here as a window into my creative process. I look forward to writing bits of the story and using it to reflect on myself. I know I’ll get to know myself better as I share and document for you. That’s exciting for me!
Several years ago I was a corporate trainer. I trained all levels of new employees and wrote customer service manuals for a well known global athletic retailer. I had a lot of fun, actually, but I started to become a work-a-holic. As I became a work addict I started to feel something else in me brew. I didn’t know what it was. But my husband recognized it. He saw my inner artist gasping for breath as I drowned it behind manual writing and F-Key training for the lowest common denominator. When I was younger I let my inner artist out much more freely. I drew and painted with skill, but had nothing to say with it. I felt I had nothing in me to express so I put it away and followed a more traditional path. My husband had never met my inner artist but he had seen some of the work I once created and knew there was something there. He also noted my fascination with hot glass through the years he had known me. So one weekend in the fall of 2001 he took me to a stained glass store where the owner had a torch set up in back where he made small, colorful glass marbles. We asked what that glass melting thing was about and how I could start. I was hoping he had lessons or something. He didn’t. But he did offer to sell me the needed equipment and held up a hot head torch. I rejected that. He tried again, offing that it was an inexpensive way to find if this was for me. I shook my head. I knew I needed more power to experience the sloppy hot glass I yearned for in my gut. So the man in the store asked me what I wanted to make. To this I had no answer. I just knew I wanted to melt the glass and lots of it. The man nodded, confidently opened the big equipment book to order the equipment and told me, “Well, then… You’ll want to make beads.”
And so it was decided that I would go forth and make glass beads. After the equipment arrived we promptly set it up. Then I decided I had no idea what I was doing and the new torch sat cold and unused for months. I must have hit my limit at work or something because one day I turned it on (with help from my husband, Adam). I melted a little and became frustrated. Very, very frustrated. The torch sat cold again for some time until one day I tried again and became frustrated again. And it went this way for a year or two. I denied myself time at the torch because I was frustrated with how slowly I was learning. I was actually learning pretty quickly, now that I look back. I was just still trying to repress my artist with negativity and criticisms. I think I was afraid. What if I was decent at this? What if I was good enough to make a living at this? What if I had to choose between a paycheck and glass? What if I choose glass and then have to have the guts to really do this… Now that’s scary. And a great reason to repress the inner artist. What if I’m good at this? That’s about the scariest question I can ask myself, I think. And it kept me from glass for some time.
After time I was making beads with some success and control. It was about then that I released my fears and started spending some quality time at the torch. I began to accumulate piles of beads and had no idea what to do with them. It was my first incentive to sell them, but I had no idea how or where. I began to make jewelry, thinking it would be easier to find jewelry buyers than bead buyers. But I learned that I do not enjoy the jewelry making process and, therefore, I was not good at it. So I used the internet and googled lampwork glass beads for the first time. I found that I was not alone in lampwork glass beadmaking and that eBay existed as popular way of selling those beads. I was impressed by the other talent I found and for the first time used other people’s work as inspiration for my own. I tried to accomplish techniques I saw others use and learned that there is an adoring market waiting for original bead work. My excitement for glass beads grew as I saw the exciting places beads could go. My growing excitement was leading to better quality beads and finally, the courage to sell them via eBay, my first source of inspiration. I offered simple sets and grew a customer base quietly and slowly. As my skill grew and my beads developed a flavor of their own, my customer base strengthened. In January 2005 I quit my full time job and followed my glass path. I found the transition from a paycheck to self-supporting artist one of the easiest parts of my recent evolution, even though it was what I feared the most.
Now I find all kinds of new thing to fear and overcome in the glass world. It’s a constant source of growth for me. While I rarely fear the glass (rather I feel frustration with glass) I feel fear, dread and doubt within the process of learning to execute in glass, the glass world and the human world. The result of that creative process is my work. I tend to ask myself, “what if…?” If I’m encouraged by the answer (or brave enough to go forward despite the answer), I create. If I focus on my fears I tend to hang out in bed all day.
To find out more about me or my work, please visit my website: www.JCHerrell.com.