Free State is a pre-Civil War reference to the town of Lawrence, KS, where the studio is located. It’s also a nice metaphor for the way glass is when we work with it. Glass is about color and light that you can create and manipulate. As a process, glass blowing is very appealing to artists because it’s very physical.
Right now, probably 50 percent of my work is lighting. The other 50 percent is art and craft store items. I probably do four or five large-scale projects a year that cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, plus numerous smaller items. I have longtime patrons who have no more room for my bowls, but who can find the room for a light fixture.
I always like to get to know the people who choose to become my clients. They become my friends, and I get to know their space and their identity and what they want to project. It is very rare for me to just work through a designer and not become well-acquainted with the people who will live with the piece. I’ve been lucky to get clients who see things my way, or at least I am able to see things their way. A lot of times, they are people who are creative in their own lives.
In the case of the Turnbulls, for whom I created three pieces for three adjoining rooms, their living space is their way to create. They told me very early on that the focus of the project was not to create light but to create art. That’s good because that is the way I approach my lighting designs. Even so, I always try to get an idea from clients as to how much task lighting they are trying to achieve with this sculptural item that is going to hang from their ceiling. Sometimes they aren’t interested in that at all. That really helps me because my work isn’t always as simple as putting a light inside every globe. I do a lot of indirect lighting of the piece itself. For the Turnbulls’ project, there is some neon rim lighting, and there’s a little bounce lighting off the ceiling. Each fixture is probably 3 feet wide by 7 feet long, which is a nice size for most residential applications.
I like to do all the work myself, including the metal work. I find a lot of joy in getting away from glass and working with metal. The bending of the steel, the shaping, the welding— all that is kind of a little vacation for me. It lets me be creative without feeling like I am at work. I also like to be there during the installation of the lights. I don’t do the electrical part, but I like to be there and finish the job.