Creativity has been an influencing factor in my life since a very young age. I remember always having a sketchbook somewhere on my person (mostly, when I was younger, as a diversion to avoid having to interact with other people…), always observing the world with an artist’s eye. There are, tucked carefully away, several sketchbooks full of images that only a child’s mind could conjure or appreciate. I find that my history, as I assume can be said of so many artists, can be traced throughout my life’s timeline from one catalyst to another. Each spark caused by a connection, a discovery, a creation. Each step of the way supported and encouraged by my wonderful mother, who continually provided me with art supplies, inspirations and stronger-than-steel personality to emulate and aspire to.
I have learned, in my time, that if you want art in your life, view the world as art and you will never be without it.
My love of art (and antisocial behavior) at the early age of eight led one of my teachers to introduce me to art therapy with Robert Ault. Through his sessions, my quiet loneliness became interactive creativity; I learned that art was a powerful tool for emotional outlet and wordless expression. I spent a decade visiting “Ault’s Academy of Art” and over the years, I saw creativity change my outlook and my path in life. My Middle-school years were spent making little oil paintings, overly intricate, rainbow colored dragon drawings and even writing/illustrating a children’s book for a nationwide contest. During my high school years at Topeka West High School in Topeka, KS, I got very involved in the arts programs, spending nearly every free minute playing in the silversmithing and design studios under the tutelage of a few wonderful art teachers.
My junior year in high school, I was introduced to new medium that would alter my artistic path: Glass. A friend of my mother had taken note of my artistic personality and wanted me to meet a local family with an interesting hobby. A family of glass blowers. Their company was called AlBo Glass Studio, (Al-Bo for Allison and Betty Jo Sheafor, who started the family obsession.) and I was in love at first glance... A mesmerizing medium that moved like warm honey and could be manipulated with steel, wood and paper into an endless variety of forms, molten glass was like magic to me. While I watched in awe, connections were made… lengthy conversation led to a link in our families histories and, finding that I was related, AlBo Glass hired me on the spot. In order to learn the techniques of glassblowing in short order, I was sent to train with my bosses’ son, Nathan - a talented glassblower who owned “The Glass Forge” in Grants Pass Oregon - new friendships formed and connections were made. While I learned the basics of glass blowing from Nathan, his wonderful wife Michelle introduced me to Stained Glass. I fell in love all over again… The patterns and textures of sheet glass, so skillfully puzzle-pieced together to create intricate, heavy-lined designs were delightful to me.
My college years at Washburn University in Topeka found me with a full schedule of Fine Art courses in pursuit of my BFA, still happily working with AlBo Glass and apprenticed to a local Stained Glass artist at “Creations Unique”, Tamra Yancey. Tamra introduced me to Fused glass and my collection of mediums continued to grow. At Washburn, I was continually inspired, pushed and supported by a collection of amazing artists and friends who happened to be my professors. One particularly strong influence was Ed Navone, who helped me grasp capturing the movement of the human form and altered/improved my entire understanding of oil paint.
I graduated in 2007 from Washburn University with honors and Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, my emphasis in oil painting and stained glass. My home business in custom stained glass and fused glass jewelry had been booming for several years at this point, and I was participating in art and craft shows and the local farmers market in the area almost every weekend. Much to my delight, I was honored with the Pollock award near the end of my time at Washburn, with the Mulvane Art Museum purchasing one of my oil paintings for their permanent collection.
While my painting and stained glass ebbed in the years after graduation and the blank canvases began to pile up, my fused glass jewelry continued to grow and create new connections with new artists and art show goers all over the state. When the economy went south, and shows were no longer as affordable to pursue, my jewelry found its way into the (then new) NOTO Arts District of Topeka, KS. Already a huge fan of the First Friday Art walks that brought a huge variety of art to the people of Topeka, I was thrilled when the NOTO concept was mentioned. I remember joining other excited artist and art patrons on the very first tours of the derelict buildings on north Kansas Avenue and had delighted in the idea of an arts district and art community that was being proposed. As I watched NOTO grow, my excitement grew with it as artist friends I had connected in earlier years began opening their own studios and galleries, and people started taking notice of the renovations happening just north of the river… My jewelry moved around from gallery to lovely little gallery in the NOTO area, usually just a first Friday showing or two in the same place, but I was just happy to have my creations on display, to be involved in the growing community. Eventually, my jewelry found a home in the Yeldarb Gallery, as well as my paintings from my college years. As my connections in NOTO grew, I was asked if I would like to teach a few art classes for the NOTO Art center and quickly agreed. I wanted very much to be a part of the growing Art movement in Topeka.
In the strange, round-about way that life has, I found myself painting again. Large scale murals (at Washburn Institute of Technology) became my full time job, working part-time at art jobs (AlBo Glass and occasionally helping out at Creations Unique), teaching and plotting out new classes for the NOTO Art Center and even teaching a few classes at the Mulvane Art Museum on the Washburn University Campus. All the while creating on the side, in-between my art jobs. My last large scale project in Topeka was a thank you gift to the Yeldarb Art Museum for all the years of kindness, a 6 panel (each 4ftx4ft) custom stained glass window for their new gallery, with waves of spectral color and fused steampunk components.
The murals had been completed, but I wasn’t done painting. After a seven year hiatus from paint, a floodgate had been opened. I started looking at graduate schools and in a rush of creative effort I produced 17 new paintings (photorealistic portraits in a variety of sizes) for my application to Washington University of Saint Louis. I was accepted into Wash U’s Graduate Fine Arts Program, but with the compounding complexities of a new marriage, an uprooting of my entire adult life from Topeka and art commissions waiting in the wings, I decided to let myself settle for a bit into an entirely new way of life before pursuing graduate study. My husband Andrew and I moved into Saint Louis and I swiftly found myself employed at Third Degree Glass Factory, where my odd and eclectic set of art skills presented me with the wonderful opportunity of working in Blown, Fused and Torch-worked glass alongside some amazingly talented artists.
At home, In my ever-messy studio tucked away in our South City Carondelet neighborhood, I create unique wearable works of art using fusible glass, recycled hand-blown glass, anodized aluminum, resin, patience and whatever new mediums happen to drift my way. I work on commissioned art pieces, custom stained glass and paintings. I sketch ideas. I explore new mediums. I contemplate the remaining stack of blank canvas with excitement and enthusiasm.
For years I truly believed that if art was my full-time employment (up until 2012 I’ve always had a “real” full-time job, and art on the side) I wouldn’t want to do it, that it would taint the creativity that I had loved and clung to for so many years. I have never been so happy to be proven wrong. I may have a “real” job again someday, but for now, Art: All the time, Art. I’m happier than I can remember and only wish there were more hours in the day to create.
Currently my life is an evolving work of art, and I plan to keep painting/fusing/creating.
TL:DR (shorter bio - for those who don't have time...)