Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bluegrass and Glass

The artist Annie herself.

A few months ago, I was trying to come up with ideas for a Crafts & Cocktails get together with some of the other creatives at my day job, and I found the most wonderful little party kits on Etsy by a fellow Kentucky artist named Annie Howes.  After much deliberation (she has several different party kits available), I purchased her Glass Pendant kit.  Even with 3-4 pineapple rum concoctions under my belt, I found it to be not only great fun, but instructive.  I was hooked and went back to her shop to see about purchasing more to experiment with, and it was then that I discovered her Ugly Betties.

What is an Ugly Betty?

It's an imperfect glass piece.  Sometimes mis-shapen, sometimes with a bubble or two, maybe not as smooth as Annie's superb AAA grade tiles (which are spectacular).  I ordered a bagful and became thoroughly enchanted by the imperfections.  I love the way they feel.  I love that they look handmade.

I related this to Annie and she invited me up to her studio to go through her bin of seconds.

So yesterday, one of the other Art Directors at my day job (who also happens to be a glass artist of a different sort) and I drove the Bluegrass Parkway so I could hoard Ugly Betties to my hearts content.

Sitting on a country hillside in one of the prettiest parts of Kentucky is a typical home with a typical outbuilding, horses in the pasture, a lovely vista and the hidden gem that is Annie's studio.

I love seeing how other artists put their spaces together, how they organize in the chaos that is ever present, and Annie didn't disappoint.  She is warm and effusive and incredibly smart - and her space reflects that.  I had a little bit of space envy, because my creative chaos is um, 'organized' all over my house, but here was her creative chaos, which was not chaotic looking at all to a fellow artist.  Although she might argue that point...

Shelf after shelf hold her kits and glass and creations,  sorted for easy order packing - everything was at hand.  Her two kilns had glass tiles cooling, and the kiln gave off a nice warmth on a crisp, fall day.  What impressed me most was the piles here and there of things that I knew were works in progress.  I'm a sucker for an artist's process.  

Annie tests every product she sells, every kit she puts together extensively to make certain that we get the most out of her imagination so we can take it and run with it.  I love that.  And she shares her learning process generously.  Right now she is testing glass paints to put together a kit that I am frankly, pretty damn excited about.  

Glass cooling in kiln.
Before we left, I planted myself on a stool and dove into her Ugly Betty bin pretty much head first. I picked though what I knew I definitely wanted but eventually gave in and grabbed handfuls of the cool, smooth glass and just dumped it into my box.

I'm sure she thought I was nuts, because I kept saying 'I love how these FEEL'.  I walked out of there with damn near 10 pounds of the stuff and 1,000 ideas.

And that is what it comes down to.  My crafting habits are all about the tactile experience in many ways.  My soaps, while colorful and fragrant, are a really tactile process.  

Same with the tarts I make.  Equally, jewelry making is another hand-centric endeavor. And now I am playing with these wonderful sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy pieces of glass and turning them into tiny little pieces of art.  I'm sure there is some case that Freud could make about it all, but meh.  I prefer Ruskin's philosophy:

"Life without labor is guilt. Labor without art is brutality"

Annie Howes could have inspired it.

Visit Annie at:


  1. It was so nice meeting you both! Thank you for the lovely soaps, they are divine! Come up for a visit any time :o) - Annie

  2. It was great fun! Next time, cocktails!

  3. what an awesome story! off to check out annie's shop now.

  4. This is great! Will be ordering from Annie today!