We chose Mari Johnson as our first Featured Artist for a variety of reasons. She’s a very talented lampworker, seedbeader, and teacher. She’s also the glue that holds our group together. She opens her studio and her heart to us on a monthly basis. For some of us, it’s the one time, the one place where we can get together with people who are like minded. Mari encourages all of us. Without her we wouldn’t be the group that we are. Mari, we love you and we thank you.
I walked into a stained glass shop in Plymouth, Michigan, where I lived at the time, and as I was always interested in glass, I asked if they had any classes. The owner had just started teaching beadmaking classes and I took a four hour class on a hothead. The beads were awesome to me, although looking at them now, not so much.
How long have you been lampworking?
I’ve been lampworking for 8 years. But the first 4 years I probably lampworked 40 – 50 hours a week, now it’s more like 20 – 30.
Is it a business for you or a hobby?
It’s a business.
What inspires you?
The glass inspires me, other media, nature, everything around me, really.
How do you get the inspiration/motivation back when you are in a slump?
One of my favorite things is to go to a paper shop or fabric store. I love the textures of paper, the colors and patterns of fabric.I look in magazines and occasionally in the Gallery of Lampwork Etc, and yearly when we buy in Tucson. Oh the brain is engaged then, all right.
Who are your 3 favorite lampworkers?
Kate Fowle Meleney is my mentor. Kate’s work is truly cutting edge and thoughtful. Just like Kate! Andrea Guarino Slemmons. Andrea’s work is color, depth, design, style… you’d like to taste the glass, absorb it’s richness and detail.Tink Martin. Her work is tidy, stylish, artsy. Her exploration of glass is ongoing, she’s a fun, interesting person with great insight.
I also love the work of Deb Crowley, Brent Graber, Chris Roesinger, Brian Kitson, Trey Cornette, Anne Ricketts, Kim Affleck, Anastasia… the list just goes on and on…
What is the best thing about lampworking?
I still have to say the best thing is when the glass goes from solid form to liquid (Yes, we all know glass is never solid, but you know what I mean.) and back to liquid. That fluidity, the color, the immediacy and the practicality of glass is still a wonder to me. I adore it.
People in the field who would rather talk smack than appreciate one another. I gossip, we all do, but between the people who don’t want others to rise in the field and the ones who are forever claiming they invented this or that, … the glass grinches… well, I’ve seen how it stifles the creativity of newcomers to glass, and it’s a shame. This isn’t rocket science and it should be fun. It’s not stocks and bonds and money… it shouldn’t be cutthroat. I believe that if my hand is closed, then nothing is going in or out…you have to give to receive, there’s enough to go around, folks. There are more customers out there than any of us can handle, so what’s the problem?
What is the funniest or scariest thing that ever happened to you when you were torching?
Scariest and funniest is when hot glass goes down the cleavage. Funny to everyone else, scary to the girls.
What kind of set up do you use? Torch?
I use a Barracuda, the other workstations have a Lynx and six Mini CC’s. They’re all equipped with Creation Stations, Crowley Marvers and a basic tool set. We have a huge ventilation system, too.
What is your favorite glass?
I love the Black Nebula, Double Helix and Doug Remschnieder’s new glass, oh and Raku!
Do you have a favorite technique?
I think blowing shards and laying them on beads is about the most fun ever. I also love doing the implosions that Brent taught me.
What are your favorite color combinations?
Black and anything that silvers, oh and Raku.
What technique makes you want to bang your (or someone else’s) head against the wall?
Smoothing out an encased floral slowly. I could scream sometimes. It takes patience, which I save for teaching.
Is there a shape that you really HATE to make?
I love all shapes, I’m quite happy with them all but see above.
Do you have a ‘comfort’ bead?
Sometimes I just warm up by making long skinny tubes. I love doing it.
How do you see yourself developing as a lampworker in the future?
I see myself developing more focus now that I’m on Lyrica for Fibromyalgia. I get more done in one day than I did in three just a few months ago. Running the store and workshops leaves less time for beadmaking and that’s what I love most, so getting the ducks in a row first and having a clean workspace is essential to my devleoping focus.
What are your goals?
To become more focused in my work, to be more organized so I can devote more time to beadmaking and less to finding things. The bead store has so many components its sick how much time I spend looking for stuff. To delegate more.
What do you consider as successful?
If you are doing what you love to do, that’s success. If you feel scattered and unable to focus, you’re not there … YET! But it could be around the corner. Having people to love and that love you, laughing a LOT, that’s success to me. Being a great teacher, not letting my ego get in their way to learning glass, that’s success. Sharing what I’ve learned, not holding anything back. What success is not: It’s not getting published, speaking at the Gathering, being an Officer of the ISGB, making rules… that’s not my idea of success. It’s being in the trenches and helping others get set up and started on their journey. Promoting the love of glass.
What is the key to getting there?
Ooooh Ooooh! I know this one! Perserverance and enjoying the journey. Just keep doing your best and you’ll get there. Wherever ‘there’ is for you. It’s Practice, Practice, Practice, but enjoy the journey. Enjoy the people, sights, sounds and tastes. This ain’t rehearsal, it’s your life! Enjoy… take time and smell. Unless you’re going over the bridge in Joliet… don’t smell there.
What would be your 3 best tips for new artists?
#1. Do set up your torch with safety and wear didydiums.
#2. Do your due diligence.. make 50 small round beads. If you are bored, decorate every 10th bead, but do them. You will be able to round and center your beads without thinking about it in approximately 20 seconds. Then you get to do the fun stuff like designing your masterpiece!
#3. Get a large 3 ring binder and put your inspirational photos, fabrics and textures in it. Include tutorials or tips and tricks you find on LE.
Do you like to take classes from other lampworkers?
Yes, I do! I take classes every time someone comes to our studio and also when I go to Glass Stock every year.
Do you teach?.
Yes, I have been teaching for seven years.
Will you travel to teach?
Yes, I travel to Oregon to teach at Glass Stock every year, and would travel to other places, too. Email me at email@example.com. I’m a bargain. LOL!
Blue Fire Beads & Jewelry
2534 E. Lincoln Hwy.
New Lenox, IL