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Artist

Design

Upcycling Design Challenge

September 5, 2013

UPCYCLING Design Challenge

Reuse! Reclaim! Upcycle! Sustainability is certainly value of ours, and we believe it’s an important value of our customers and community as well. We’ve all heard the popular saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And we absolutely stand by that quote here at UncommonGoods because we  love all of our upcycled products we feature on our site!  We’re a fan of old things turned anew, from old records to bicycle tubes to recycled glass made into framed art, purses, or jewelry. Even though we already have a great selection of upcycled products, we are still searching for more fun and interesting items to feature!

If you have a special upcycled product design that you would like UncommonGoods to take a look at, enter into this month’s featured contest! You’ll have a chance to win $500 and a vendor contract with us.

To submit your upcycling designs and for the complete contest rules visit our Upcycling Design Challenge page.

 

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Knight

September 3, 2013

UncommonGoods Artist Jeff Knight

The moment I saw Jeff Knight’s Nimbus Cloud Serving Board in our Woodworking Design Challenge I started rooting for it. I love the combination of sturdy, yet beautiful, hard maple and the whimsical cloud shape of the board–and the little raindrop serving trays are the perfect finishing touch to make this simultaneously playful and functional piece truly uncommon. When I found out that Jeff is from my hometown, I crossed my fingers a little harder, even though I was pretty confident our voting community would make sure the design made it to the final round. In the end, our community and our judges agreed with me that this wooden work of art was perfect for our assortment.

Since I happened to be planning a trip back home to Fargo, North Dakota, I HAD to jump on the opportunity to see where this winning design was born. Upon my arrival Jeff, in true Midwestern fashion, graciously welcomed me into his wood shop, offered up coffee, and gave me a tour of a beautifully sawdusty space called DIY Wood Studio, a shared woodworking environment filled will tools of all sizes, projects in the works, and a lot of inspiration.

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Maker Stories

All the Love for James Gulliver Hancock

August 22, 2013

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Since I was five years old, drawing distorted family stick figures and doodling all over notebooks has been a permanent hobby of mine. I still catch myself drawing in office meetings or on those too-long subway rides. Not that I’m talented at all, I just love the way a pen feels against a blank piece of paper. It’s as natural as eating or sleeping to me. So when I got the chance to interview someone who literally makes art and drawing their living, I was beyond pumped, especially since that artist just so happened to be the inspiring  James Gulliver Hancock. He’s a passionate, quirky artist who re-imagines his world around him into an urban whimsical fairy tale and claims to be sick when he’s not holding a pencil in his hand. 

Over here at UncommonGoods, we only have tremendous love for James Gulliver Hancock. (And kind of just love saying his name.) He collaborated with us to design his “All The…” drawing series and made some pretty sWHEAT graphics for our beer steins. He juggles living in between Sydney, Australia and Brooklyn,New York and everywhere else in between that fits into his family’s career paths and hectic schedules. He says, “We sometimes feel like a creative gypsy family circus, making videos and pictures and music as we travel around the globe.”

His most current project is drawing All The Buildings in New York. I was lucky enough to be invited to his current studio, which is conveniently New York City itself, and watch the drawing mastermind work his magic. We met under the Washington Square Monument, and right away I spotted him in his bright red pants, looking up towards the sky, in full concentration holding his weapons of choice: a pen and a notebook.

James Gulliver Hancock

I love your art work, especially the products we have here at UncommonGoods. What exactly ignited the “All the…” series?

It all started with traveling, I always keep a journal when I’m traveling, and I usually draw more than I write. I often found myself drawing the objects that I obsessed over in different places, or the things that dominated my experience. When I started road tripping around America I was drawn to draw different things I found in different places. I love concentrating on certain things and learning everything you can about that thing. If you’re drawing boats, you get to know all the types of boats. If it’s cactus, you see there are so many types; drawing really makes you look deeply at things. It’s like people that collect things, I admire that kind of focused obsession… the guy that knows everything about 1950’s salt and pepper shakers is a fascination to me.

James Gulliver Hancock

 What made you realize that drawing was what you wanted to do as a career?

I knew from a very early age, from a little boy I always drew. An early memory is from pre-school when we had to rotate between activities (drawing, puzzles, napping), so when I got to drawing I devised the most complicated drawing I could think of so I wouldn’t have to do the other things any more. I’m still like that, figuring out my life so I can draw as much as possible.

James Gulliver Hancock

Can you describe the moment when you realized “Holy crap, I’m actually doing this…!”

I have this almost every day. It’s so awesome to be drawing everyday and have people around the world, appreciate and love (and pay for!) what I do. I’ve also managed to integrate travel and a family into the fold of awesomeness too. My wife is a musician and we are often on the road, me with a portable studio to keep working. We sometimes feel like a creative gypsy family circus, making videos and pictures and music as we travel around the globe!

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You  live an aspiring artist’s dream and have traveled and showcased your work everywhere in the world: New York, Australia, Japan, France, England…the list goes on! What’s your secret?

Making stuff all the time helps, and telling people about it all the time. Being an artist requires you to be pro-active in making and then showing your work. People aren’t necessarily going to ask you to do something. A lot of the time you have to just do it and show them what it could be for them to get excited. Travel is essential, too; with the internet you can get a lot of international exposure without leaving your home town, but by being in a place, your energy shifts. You might meet someone and links begin to happen. Sometimes people I’ve met for half an hour while traveling becomes a client years later.

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Where was your first exhibition held? How did you feel the day of? (Were you basking in all your glory, dissecting every single problem, or heading to the toilet to re-compose yourself?)

I was definitely hiding in the toilet room. Some of the reason I’m an illustrator is so I don’t have to perform in crowds! I’m doing lots of talks now for my new book and have to get up in front of lots of people, and I find it terrifying! But it’s fun also. I do love having this solitary process that also comes out into the world and interacts with it. As for my first exhibition, it was probably when I was a kid and I filed my family into a room that I prepared with things on the walls. It felt natural to me to ‘perform’ in this way, more natural than other kids doing fake TV shows or something.

All the Buildings in NY

Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?

Wandering is the best. I went for the longest walk around Manhattan yesterday and saw, heard, smelt so many things. Consequently the ideas are flowing! I also seem to get inspired when I’m going to sleep and waking up, when the constraints of the day have faded away and the brainy mush floats around with new ideas.

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On your site, you mention that you feel sick when you’re not drawing. Other than not drawing, what else makes you sick when you’re not doing it. 

Riding my bike clears my mind for sure. I can ride and ride and ride, and feel so peaceful, even in Manhattan. It becomes like a computer game, dodging the obstacles. The rhythm of riding is so hypnotic. But drawing every day is really what keeps me happy. If I can’t draw I have to make something else, whether it be cooking, or craft or something, making stuff is what I do.

Beer Steins by James Gulliver Hancock

What’s one of your all-time favorite quotes?

“Color tells it all, black and white tells just enough to stir the imagination.” It’s by an Australian photographer, Max Dupain, who took a lot of amazing black and white photos. I love the idea of sharing just enough with the viewer to get them thinking too. To leave room for them to bring something to the image– their own associations.

Do you have any secret vices that causes immense procrastination? How do you monitor this vice?

Luckily drawing is my vice, and because it’s my work I don’t have to monitor it, the more I do the better! Other than that, I shouldn’t eat so many chocolate muesli bars and cake, but hey, that’s what the bicycle is for.

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Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?

I have a 1.5 year old son and have so many ideas for children’s books that I haven’t had time to do yet. I also have a new book coming out in 2014 that will be amazing. Stay tuned!

What’s one piece of advice you have for that person out there that has a creative passion and can’t seem to make a career out of it?

Keep doing it, keep making projects and publishing them somehow (print, web, whatever) and then show them to everyone you can think of.

QUIFF – redux from James Gulliver Hancock on Vimeo.

Maker Stories

Katie’s Fern Frond Hoops Take the Win

August 14, 2013

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We had over two hundred submissions to our 2013 Jewelry Design Challenge, and although we saw many amazing pieces we wanted to put in our own personal jewelry box, Katie Lime’s Fern Frond Hoops truly stole our judges’ hearts. The design holds a simple elegance for everyday wear, yet Katie’s innovative touch is undeniable. From the mixed metals of brass and sterling silver to the design’s geometric, whimsical shape, these nature-inspired earrings are more than just jewelry. They’re tiny pieces of art. And because it’s no secret that we are such big animal lovers, Katie donating a part of her proceeds to animal shelters was a huge cherry on top. (Details of where she donates to are below the interview.)

Meet Katie Lime, the newest member of our UncommonGoods artist family, and read about her jewelry-making journey from taking classes in high school to creating her very own jewelry company. 

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Give us an uncommon fact about you and your hometown. 

An uncommon fact about me is that I’m a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan and a huge Harry Potter nerd. An uncommon fact about Carmel, Indiana is that they absolutely love roundabouts.  There are over 80 of them!

When did you realize that jewelry design was what you wanted to do?  

I took some jewelry classes in high school and absolutely fell in love.  When I went to college for Art History I realized that I could study Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design.  After that first semester in metals I realized it was what I wanted to do so I stayed in school an extra year and double majored in Art History and Metals.

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What was the biggest message you took with you when you finished school for metalsmithing? 

I learned to really explore my ideas and to play around with materials.  I learned to not be afraid of trying something new and different and not to be afraid of failure.  I also learned that having a network of peers can be a wonderful resource.  We are very lucky these days to have outlets such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter to meet like-minded people who will be there to support, answer questions, share knowledge and constructively critique our work.

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When was the moment and how did you feel when you made your first sell?  

I made my first big sale at my senior thesis show in a formal gallery setting.  The necklace that sold was a big show stopping piece, not really all that functional but more sculptural.  It felt great!  It gave me confidence in my work and made me feel like I was headed in the right direction.

We love your earrings, but we also love the amazing fact that you donate to two animal shelters. When was the moment that you decided this was going to be something you would be a part of?

My boyfriend and I have rescued three dogs in our adult lives.  They are the sweetest, most loving and giving souls in this world and we don’t know what we would do with out them.  I wanted to do more for other animals in need, so I started donating money from my company.

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What inspires you the most when you create your designs? 

I am inspired by the natural world surrounding me.  I like to examine all the beautiful and small things in our world and take inspiration from them.  I’m also inspired by all the people in my daily life and all the makers in this world who create for a living.

What’s your favorite part of the design process?

I love creating new designs, playing around with new ideas and making pieces with gemstones.  I also really enjoy working on custom pieces for my customers.  I love that I’m creating something just for them!

How exactly was Moira K. Lime Jewelry born?  

When I moved to Chicago I was designing and producing for another jeweler and creating my own jewelry in my spare time.  I realized that I could really make a living off of my designs when my work started to sell consistently and I began running out of time to make my own creations.  It’s great to be able to be your own boss and create things that you like for other people to cherish.

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Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel unmotivated, lost, or stuck. What do you usually do when you catch yourself in this frustrating rut?  

I usually step away from my studio and give myself some time off to get that creative mojo flowing again.  I’ll also go for day trips, hikes, or places in the city that inspire me.

Are there any interesting future projects you’re pursuing or currently working on? 

I’ve always dreamed of opening my own storefront/showroom/workshop space.  I’d like to use the space as my working studio, a place to meet customers to work on custom designs, a small show room and a place to teach workshops.  I’m really hoping to make this happen one day soon!

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If you could give away one of your secrets to all those who want to win a design challenge, which secret would it be?  

Be yourself and your designs will be truly unique and eye catching.

If you’re inspired to read more about Katie’s favorite animal shelters, visit Chicago Pit Stop RescuePAWS Chicago, and One Tail at a Time

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emilie Shapiro

August 5, 2013

Jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoods

 

I would definitely consider it love at first sight. The moment I saw the ragged edges and claw-like setting of the Raw Gemstone Necklaces, I knew I wanted to meet the designer. (And get one for myself.) So I invited myself to her Long Island City office and studio for a meeting.

Whenever I meet one of our incredible artists, I try to find similarities between myself and these seemingly normal people making extraordinary things. Our artists can make us all feel so much from a necklace or a wine glass that it makes me wonder if there is some super-human element they possess. Finding a common ground might indicate some greatness within myself. So I always look for a connection.

With Emilie Shapiro, it’s the love of treasures -digging through her rock and shell collection, hunting for pieces in her grandmother’s jewelry box, rediscovering something others have overlooked and bringing it all back to her worktable to create something new – that keeps her ticking. I too share her love of found objects and breathing new life into them.

Meet Emilie, lover of found objects and handmade jewelry designer.

Emilie's essential tools | UncommonGoods

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Maker Stories

Love Letters from Your Pet by Karen Jones

July 9, 2013

Usually when it comes to design challenges, we adhere to the rules. (Mostly because I’m a relentless stickler!) But every once and a while a submission comes along that makes you think twice. Our Art Contest is usually call for a digital rendering of a piece of art that we will reproduce and sell framed. However, Karen Jones entered a piece that wouldn’t fit that model. She entered her Love Letter Custom Pet Portraits that are oil paintings on a piece of steel of your beloved canine or feline, with a little note expressing their love to you. Since each piece is made to order, we wouldn’t be able to print and frame the paintings but the call was for art and that is exactly what Karen sent us. She also must have known we have a soft spot for our pets.

What is one uncommon fact about you?
I have a twin brother who is an artist also. On the surface we are not the same, he is a tall red headed cowboy and I am a short, high heeled, glitter loving city dweller. We were born artists and luckily enough had great art teachers when we were growing up in Arizona. We were in a lot of the same art classes in school which was fun because I always had a painting buddy. I still like to paint with other people around me, but that doesn’t happen anymore. I had to learn to love to be alone with my art. Now I look forward to being alone with just me and my art. Well, sort of alone. I paint with my dog, Ruby next to me.

When did you first realize you’re an artist?
Last week. Funny, but I think we as artist have an internal idea of what being an artist is. I was an artist to the outside world since kindergarten. Art was always fairly easy for me. Awards, lots of art classes, going to art school… none of those made me feel like I was an artist. Three years ago, I became a full time, money making artist. That didn’t even make me feel like an artist.

When I started painting from my heart and giving more of myself and accomplishing paintings that I felt were ‘hard to do’ or challenging and I did it… that’s when I realized I was an artist.

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
Everywhere. I try not to walk through life with too much singular focus. I am always looking around, letting things grab my attention. I look at other people art, that can often trigger an idea in myself. I love to travel, ideas often come to me while driving down the road. I look for things to spark my interest and then process them through the mill of my mind, letting the idea develop a little before making it real. I’ve started writing down ideas I have in the middle of the night but that doesn’t work. I wake up wondering what, ‘I’m human in pink chalk’ means.

Describe your artistic process.
On Sunday nights, I get my canvases for the week ready. I paint on steel, so I get my steel ready. I get the image drawn on, make sure I have a photo printed to work from and enough paint.

Then on Monday morning, after coffee, a little time on the internet and a load of laundry, I head to the studio in my house. I put a ’70s tv program like, ‘Hawaii Five-O’ on and start painting. Once I get started, I sort of go in a zone and before I know it, it’s 4pm and time to get on the treadmill and make dinner. To me setting up my environment so I am not distracted and able to go into the zone is key. My focus stays clear and singularly focused. Sometimes when I need more emotion in my painting, I put on loud love music or on Fridays, Disco.

Describe your work space.
Today my studio is my 1968 vintage Airstream. We love going places, so sometimes I’m lucky enough to be able to paint while on the road.

Normally, I paint in my studio at home. My house is very modern and open. My studio is on the second floor with a big oval window with a nice view and good light. My studio isn’t big and is oddly for an artist, very clean. The only things in my studio are my painting easel, my paint table, a table for the computer so I can watch ’70s tv and a big chair and ottoman for me to sit back and ponder over what I need to do the painting. Only the things I need, nothing more. It keeps my mind uncluttered.

And of course, my dog, Ruby. She stairs at me while I paint.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
Enter. You never know unless you try. Use your already developed support group of friends, family and customers and ask them every day to vote for you. Use social media and don’t worry about bugging people. They want to support you, let them.

Maker Stories

Yao Cheng’s Watercolors go with the Intuitive Flow

July 8, 2013


Artist and designer Yao Cheng was born in China, but early in her childhood, joined her parents in the United States. She has, she says, “a deep love for anything watercolor,” and is always happy “when it’s just me, my brush and that new piece of watercolor paper in front of me.” Painting for her is “a very quiet and personal place I can go to when I’m feeling down or stressed out…No matter what happens elsewhere in my life, I can always pick up a brush and paint until I feel better.” (Being talented enough to consistently produce beautiful paintings probably helps!)

Yao feels “incredibly lucky” to be doing what she loves for a living, and her love of patterns, textures and rich colors comes through vividly in everything she creates. She shared some of her thoughts and feelings about her artwork with UncommonGoods.

Probably the strongest consistent element in your work is your connection to nature. It’s hard to tell, looking at your watercolors, whether nature itself (for example, the ocean) is expressing things, or whether it merely bring up incredibly powerful associations and emotions in the viewer. Which is it, to you? Is that ambiguity intentional?

Nature is very influential in my work in many different ways. I look to nature when I’m painting florals, landscapes or even to reference color palettes, but more than that, I think there’s a lot of beauty in the way leaves of grass, for example, move. Because of my education background in textiles, I tend to find patterns in nature and that’s what comes through a lot of the time in my work. So in the painting “Field of Grass“, I wanted to capture the wind as if you are standing there, watching as the breeze combs gently through the grass. I think that I approach my paintings from an instinctual place, so it is the immediacy in emotion that I am trying to communicate. For example, with the painting “Ocean Waves“, I had a very visceral reaction to the dramatic ocean waves and I wanted to capture that immediacy and energy in the waves.

You posted on your blog, “My paintings are honest, original and reflect how I feel at the moment. There isn’t anything more meaningful than that.” What do you mean by “honesty” in this context?

I think it is important to always be honest with how I am feeling about a piece of work and communicate that visually. So maybe it’s the calm and warmth of the waves creeping onto shore in the painting “Beach” that I want to capture by using a saturated pink, you know? It’s the immediate reaction to an image or idea that I want to keep at the center of my work.

Art for me is most importantly a way to express my feelings or ideas at a particular moment. As long as I am creating work that comes from a genuine place in my heart, then I know I have accomplished something. And if my art can make someone smile or brighten their day in some way, then that’s all that matters.

Do you feel there’s a progression, path, or journey in your painting, with some sort of direction, whether you know it or not at the time? If so, how would you describe it?

Yes, definitely. The progression happens a lot in the painting process. I tend to jump right into painting most of the time because I like to not completely plan out how I will finish a painting. I try and approach each painting from a fresh and intuitive place.

I find the intuitive way of painting to be freeing, and I have actually learned a lot from the process of not knowing and seeing where it takes me. Sometimes it’s a color that I didn’t mean to use that will take in a different direction while in the middle of creating a painting. Especially in the way watercolor blends, I have to let go of control in a lot of ways and allow the colors to blend how they would like! It is a very loose medium to work with and at first, I became really frustrated with it. But now, it is really what I love about the medium and so I try to embrace that aspect.

You’ve blogged about your love of faded images, the poetry of objects that hover between being visible, and how the empty space in your art is more interesting to you than the objects — and that these are related to the Taoist philosophy you studied in college. Does it describe some of your own feelings about these things? Is this part of Chinese calligraphy as well?

I would say that empty space is a very important of all of my work. I really love how in Taoism the empty space is seen as the breath and source of everything. In this way, I think that what is not visible in my artwork is what I try and emphasize.

For example, when I am painting geometric shapes, I am interested in that transition from what is here and how it disappears slowly across the page. The push and pull between these two realities is fascinating. Through the use of watercolor and the translucency of the pigment, I can really play with that transitional stage between what is here and what is not.

Chinese calligraphy has had a deep influence on the way I now paint. There is true poetry in the way a brush mark can express a feeling or idea, and that’s what I try to capture in my work! I learned Chinese calligraphy when I was studying abroad for a few months under a calligraphy master. I learned a lot about how to make expressive marks that speak to an emotion rather than just being an image, it was a wonderful experience.

Another quote from your blog, “As much as I love creating work, speaking about it doesn’t come as naturally to me. I think it’s because creating visual work is a completely different language to me than verbal communication, so a lot of the times I don’t know how to express in words what I was thinking or trying to say through my work.” Are there any paintings you can think of about which this is especially true? Do you try to paint what can’t be described in words?

This is especially true in my abstract paintings. You asked about the poetry of the objects in my work and I think of it more as a visual poetry when I am painting the abstract works. Trying to describe how I feel when I paint triangles dancing across a page and watching them interacting with the space on paper, that is hard for me to put into words!

Just as feelings are complicated and in multitudes of layers, my paintings sometimes have a lot of layers of different feelings or perspectives that I have a hard time finding the words to describe. For me, I think visual imagery is a more interesting and powerful way to tell a story or communicate a thought.

You posted that your UncommonGoods paintings “took you out of your comfort zone to paint work that’s more involved, and in the end, more beautiful.” Can you tell us a little more about this?

I loved creating this collection of paintings for UncommonGoods! At the time, I was painting a lot of abstract pieces and while they are visually interesting and complex, I had not made many paintings with landscapes. So with this collection, I was exploring landscapes that inspired me for the first time. It was a great way to expand my horizon a little bit and paint a different subject matter!

I would say that the layers of painting and time involved made it more extensive for me. Rather than creating a painting in one sitting, which is the case with most of my other works, I spent much more time to create the layers of images. The leaves painting, for example, took the most amount of time because first resist was laid down to preserve the color of the grass and then different layers of colors are laid down on top to create the colors in the field and the sky. It also took a few tries to capture the movement of the grass!

Do you have any big ideas for future work that you’d like to share? And/or words of inspiration?

My fiancé teases me all the time by telling me there is not enough time in the world to do everything I want! Right now, I am working on expanding my design services to wedding invitations as I have found it is the perfect culmination for my floral paintings, patterns, and graphic design to exist all at once. My fondness for calligraphy is also a great hobby of mine, so I am excited to explore more in that realm!

I am also working on expanding my art prints with some silkscreened pieces to bring in a different texture and size to my work. When I used to feel uninspired or out of ideas, I would just get frustrated and go do something else. But now I have found that inspiration is endless! There are so many ideas and beautiful things and colors in the world, I just have to open my eyes a little wider and pay more attention!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Etta Kostick

July 1, 2013

Stained glass is often associated with large-scale pieces; sprawling mosaics, iconic cathedral windows, and ancient works of art. This meticulous craft doesn’t have to be reserved for the grandiose, though. As Etta Kostick proves, stained glass provides an illustrious splash of color to handmade jewelry.

Etta combines the techniques that were passed to her from her family of glassblowers and her talent for sculpting jewelry from silver and other metals to create her bold hexagon bracelets and the rings and bracelets in her collection.

The artist creates her pieces in her Chicago studio–a bright, inviting work space within her own apartment. Although we didn’t catch her hula hooping in her living room (see “How do you recharge your creativity?”), we did convince her to take us on a virtual tour of the place where she captures light and luster with glass and solder.

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