1. Where did your interest in handmade originate from?
I’ve always been interested in craft/art and design. My Dad is very creative – a potter, painter and building designer and my Mum is an amazing seamstress too. So they always supported me in trying different art and craft hobbies as I was growing up.
2. What encouraged you to start your own handmade label?
I’d been making glass pieces for years and friends were very encouraging and kept suggesting that I should be selling my creations. I few years ago I was commissioned to create three glass panels for a dividing wall in a sporting club and from there I realised I wanted to take my hobby to the next level. To do so meant that I needed to have my own kiln and my own work space so I could experiment and develop my style. I’ve always dreamt of the home/gallery/shop in a beautiful and inspiring location where you get to share your work and the work of others with the public. I started to think about the longer term plan that maybe I could have a gallery one day. I needed to start somewhere and that’s when In My Element | Glass Design was born.
3. Tell us about glass, why is it your favourite medium?
It’s really the glass itself – it has such clarity, it’s enchanting. I love the tactile nature of glass, and the way the light reflects on and through it producing a kaleidoscope of colour.
4. What is your favourite glass technique?
There are a number of techniques that you can apply to a large range of glass products (glass comes in the form of raw sheets, rods, powders, and paints just to name a few). I don’t have a favourite technique as such, although I tend to create more functional glass art pieces through the fusing and slumping of the glass known as kiln formed or warm glass. Fusing is the process of joining 2 or more pieces of glass together through heating and melting them in a kiln to very high temperatures, sometimes up to 815 degrees. Slumping is placing the glass on a mould and heating the glass to a temperature where it slumps into and takes on the shape of the mould. There’s so many options: slumping, combing, sandblasting, kiln casting, glass painting, fire polishing and cold working.
5. Are you a self-taught artisan?
I was taught by local Canberra glass artist Judy Witherdin. I decided to take one of her glass courses back in the 90’s so that’s where my glass hobby really began. I started creating lamp shades and panels with the copper foiling and mosaic techniques. From there Judy provided the opportunity for me to try my hand at the kiln formed technique, fusing and slumping glass to create amazing effects, and I’ve never looked back.
6. A glass studio sounds quite interesting, what specialised equipment do you use?
Once I decided to set up the business I knew I needed my own studio space. So late last year with the help of my family, my Dad and I attending a kiln building course and then we created my studio – actually I took over half the garage and workshop. We set up shelving for the molds and other kiln tools and equipment; benches and tables to undertake the projects; additional storage for the glass itself. I have everything from the kiln and basic glass tools, to a free standing drill press and a small but very necessary first aid kit for the inevitable glass cut.
7. Now that you have owned your business for a while, is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes, a few things – you know what they say about hindsight and if I knew then what I know now J. Designing and creating is one thing but running your own business (and working part time in another business) is a whole different story! I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of small business courses particularly focussed on art and craft but there is so much to learn. Some of the challenges have been around how to price, market and package my hand-crafted glass products; how to compete with low cost imported and, sometimes factory produced products; and then there’s the financial management aspects – not my forte. No matter the challenges, I wouldn’t give it up or change too much – it’s a great journey and I’ve met some wonderful people as artisans and/or small business owners along the way. I’m looking forward to further developing In My Element | Glass Design.
8. What is your favourite product in your range?
I’ve had many favourites over time, and I’m pleased to say most have been purchased to be displayed as the feature piece on a side board or dining table or to be given as wedding or special birthday gifts. I lean towards the large display pieces where I feel I can be most creative. These are a couple of my all-time favourites.