Far, far away from UncommonGoods’ historic headquarters in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Marylène Chauveau manipulates glass in her home studio in Wotton, Québec. A native of the French-speaking Canadian province, Marylène lives where she works, tracing, cutting, sanding, and assembling striking pieces of finely colored glass into jewelry, mobiles, and suncatchers, all while tending to her two school-aged boys.
When we first saw Marylène’s Night Sky Mobile—a new addition to our assortment—in the flesh, we found ourselves struck by its delicate, masterful construction and by Marylène’s own background as a STEM worker-turned-glass artist. Intrigued, we set out to welcome her as we do all of our most exciting new makers: with her very own spot in our This Just In-spiration series. (As you can see, she accepted the offer. And we’re so glad.)
Read on for a glimpse into Marylène’s studio, complete with the rundown on her morning ritual and a suite of pretty pictures of her fine vitraux. (That’s French for “stained glass,” FYI. And the cat above? That’s un chat.)
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
From as far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by colors, light, and nature. I grew up in the countryside, in the Eastern Townships, in Quebec. My father had a carpentry shop there, and every day I saw the raw material transforming before my eyes and becoming a refined object.
One day I visited the studio of a friend who was a glassmaker. I was delighted to find the workshop atmosphere of my childhood, illuminated by the colors and textures of the glass. My passions were combined and I had only one desire: to express my creativity by working the glass.
What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
It is to have the opportunity to reach people through my art and then become part of their daily lives. Whenever someone is touched by one of my creations, it’s like a gift and it drives me to go even further.
Nature seems to be a common theme in your work. Where do you turn for inspiration?
I worked for several years with biologists who taught me a lot about nature in general. What inspires me is to observe nature closely: analyze the details of insects, plants, and minerals and the effect of natural light on them.
My two boys contribute to this fascination. They are always eager for discoveries and I do not hesitate to do research with them on their latest findings.
Is there a trinket or other inspirational object you keep near you while you work? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I have in my workshop a small box that contains a brooch that belonged to my grandmother. It is not a jewel of great value, but I remember the wonderment I had for this object. Children often have the ability to create a universe from a simple, low-value object. I always keep it to remind myself to preserve this capacity of wonderment.
I also have a wall in my studio where I write quotes, song lyrics, part of poems, or themes that inspire me in my creation. They are noted there, waiting to make an idea spring up.
Describe a typical day in your studio.
I usually get up pretty early. As my workshop is attached to the house, I like to enjoy a few hours of calm before the rest of the family gets up. I take the opportunity to put my ideas in place, make some drawings, and prepare my material for the production of the day. I love the morning light, it’s the time of day that I prefer.
When my two boys leave for school, I take a moment outside to get oxygenated. This ritual marks the beginning of activities that are more physical in the workshop. After, it is the work of glass that begins, according to what project I have to do. I choose the glass according to their colors and their textures, I trace, I cut, and I sand. Most of the time I use the Tiffany technique (copper foil technique) to assemble my parts. This technique involves wrapping the edges of the pieces of glass with a thin sheet of copper before being arranged and welded together.
Often in working ideas arise. I make quick sketches not to forget them. I put them aside and develop the ideas that are worth it when I have a calmer time to create.
Around 4 o’clock the children return from school and we exchange words on our respective days. They are always the first to see my work. By growing up they develop their critical sense and it’s very interesting to discover their reactions. It is a very lively period of the day when I have to reconcile work and family, but this movement also brings me a lot of ideas. This is the time of day where I do tasks that require less concentration, such as cleaning stained glass or packaging.
How do your relationships with other artists help to refresh your creativity?
Meeting other passionate artists always gives us a desire to go further. Seeing in the eye of another the same passion that inhabits you, it’s great and it makes you want to continue.
The exchanges on the different discoveries in art, the travels, the exhibitions visited, and readings feed my creativity. I also like training in workshops of artists working with other art forms than me. It sometimes leads me to review my creative process, to ask myself new questions and to sharpen my curiosity.
Finally, what quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most. –Buddha