From the time that my tiny fingers were able to clutch a writing instrument, I left my artistic influence wherever possible. . .My first choice in mediums was a black Sharpie on freshly painted Pepto pink walls. A tiny mural of a busy city with sky scrapers, cars and tiny stick people. Over the duration of my childhood, my bedroom walls became a huge pink canvas in which to express myself, and to some it likely resembled a graffiti covered run down building in Queens.
As a child I wasn’t exactly encouraged to follow a path in the arts. While my parents were both appreciators of art and music, they pushed me to focus more on the “Three R’s”. My accountant mother especially believed that art was an impractical choice of career paths. A result of her own upbringing, as her mother was a highly gifted artist who enjoyed many mediums. Her true love was pottery and her work was amazing. She never allowed herself to use her artistic talent as anything other than a hobby. Her career as an RN provided a home for her children and paid for their college tuition, while her art gave her an escape from the stresses of everyday life. Perhaps that is why my mother never saw the arts as being a potential career choice for me.
Giving up the ideas of finding myself as an artist, I chose business as a major in college and went on to NOT enjoy a long career in sales and marketing. Weekends, evenings and vacation days, found me working in the homes of friends and patrons on a sundry of Trompe L’Oeil, Fresco and Venetian plaster projects. I also enjoyed making mosaics and I often incorporated them into my work as and interesting way of framing a fresco job.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a trip to a stained glass store in mid 2005 that would launch my obsession with melting glass. The Moretti rods were displayed proudly by the shop owner and I was positively mystified as he explained how they were used. . . My excitement only escalated when he put on his safety glasses, fired up the hothead torch and demonstrated the process of making a lampwork bead. Suffice to say, I left the store swiftly with rods, mandrels, and torch in hand to begin my journey in this exciting new-to-me medium.
From the very first revolution of glass on my mandrel, I was hooked. Inspiration seemed to blanket my mind with limitless ideas of creative expression. . .From my grandmother’s Russian Christmas ornaments and delicately patterned French salt and pepper shakers to the Pompeii brothels and Egyptian tomb paintings that I studied when doing Trompe L’Oeil work. A version of each wanted to be captured in glass, but I had no idea how to do it. My first year behind the torch brought me the understanding of the basic techniques. Although I couldn’t express the ideas that were dancing around in my head, I still enjoyed making lampwork beads anytime that I had even a second to spare.
In 2005, I lost my corporate sales job. My husband encouraged me to stay home and make beads for a living. Knowing that we would be taking a huge risk, we mortgaged our house, and upgraded my studio. The remaining proceeds helped cover the loss of my salary for the first year. It was during that time that I devoted 6-12 hours per day to my torch. As my skill set and work evolved, I finally began to find myself as a lampwork bead artisan. Today, I realize that my journey will be a long one, for there is MUCH versatility in glass and I very much look forward to continuing it’s exploration.
Lydia Muell is a glass bead maker who blogs in her studio from Lexington, NC. For more information please visit here website at ashtonjewels.com.