Lilly Glass is a full-time creative. Working with glass since middle school she is no stranger to the craft. In fact, Lilly's mother enrolled her in a glass fusing class when she was in 8th grade. It was during this time that Lilly discovered her love for glass. A double major in college and a few full-time jobs later – Lilly realized it was time to make her childhood passion a reality. From sketches in a notebook to paid artist, Lilly now creates glass work for a living. Her signature style includes stunning glass orbs and objects. And when she isn't behind the torch she is jamming out. An avid music fan, Lilly loves reggae. In fact, it can be a source of inspiration for her work! From her first glass class to a budding career, this is Lilly's story.
Starting out, how did you get into glass work?
I first started working with glass when I was in 8th grade. Looking back, I was pretty young. But my mom actually enrolled me in a fused glass class. It is a lot different than what I do now (which requires flamework and using a torch) but that is really where I got my start. The class was held in a studio where I lived in Arizona. The studio offered multiple classes, so I was exposed to a lot of different types of art. I even did metal work and jewelry making. As soon as I got into glass I loved it.
I started making my mom and her friends pendants. I was getting paid and loving it! In the beginning, my specialty was fused glass. As I entered high school, though, my glass work had to be put on the backburner. There was a lot going on. Between catching up with school work and the other activities I was involved in, I didn’t have the time. Went to college – same story. I was a double major so I had a huge workload. I majored in Supply Chain Management and Marketing. While I wanted to work on glass when I was there, I was too overwhelmed with school. It was a lot just keeping it up with my classes.
When I graduated, I moved from Arizona to Charlotte, North Carolina. I was offered a position in Risk Management with one of the major banks there. It was your typical corporate job, very formal. When I was in Charlotte working full time, I was not swamped with school work for the first time in years. Which meant that I had at least a few hours of personal time. I started to look for a place where I could take glass classes. But I could not find anything.
The closest location was in Asheville, which was hours away. Not something that will work out when you are working forty or more hours per week. After finishing a year at the bank, I decided to move back to Arizona. I missed my family. When I got back to Arizona I found a position as a digital marketing specialist. That was something I had studied in college so it was a good fit. After I got settled in I started taking glass classes again. By doing this, I realized just how much I loved glass. It was something that I wanted to be doing every day and not just for a few hours a week. I was passionate about glass. I wanted to get better.
Over time, I started to learn the tools of the trade. I then put up my work online, primarily on Instagram. Soon a lot of people started contacting me about my work. People were showing an interest in placing orders. At that point, I realized that I could make my glass work a business. It was possible to do what I love and make a living. If people were interested in purchasing my work, I knew that I had a business opportunity.
Favorite piece you’ve made?
That changes a lot! I make a lot of vortex pieces. Which means that every piece I do is unique. I never really know what it is going to look like until I am in there doing it. Sometimes I will even do essentially the same piece but twist the material a different way. I end up with a completely different piece. So it is hard to say what my favorite piece would be.
I love the fact that what I create is unique. It is a surprise every time! But one of my favorite pieces I ever made was a black and pink pendant. The piece photographed so well! It was incredible how the colors turned out. It almost looked like a galaxy. I loved it so much I actually ended up keeping it! My favorite pieces often come from little mistakes. But what are initially “mistakes” are some of the most incredible pieces of art. That is what I love about glass.
What impact do you believe the legalization of cannabis will have on glass artists?
That is a really interesting question. I got into glass at a very young age. I knew what cannabis was of course but cannabis wasn’t part of my reality as a middle schooler. I just saw glass as an art form. That dynamic is really changing now with legalization. But the first time I started to see cannabis and glass work in a new way was actually in North Carolina believe it or not.
Growing up in Arizona I had been exposed to a lot of glass. There are a ton of smoke shops. I was naïve to the fact that other parts of the country were not like that. In Charlotte, the glass scene was totally different. Not only were there fewer people interested in glass, the level, and quality surprised me. I was used to what I had experienced in Arizona. Culturally, Charlotte was also very different. I was shocked. So many of the shops didn’t have inventory. It’s not like Charlotte is a small city! Even more interesting, within one year of being in Charlotte, the glass scene changed dramatically.
All of a sudden the shops were full of glass. It went from bare bones to almost totally full. I saw what was happening. This wasn’t just something limited to a particular shop or even the city of Charlotte – I saw things changing nationally. The cannabis movement was creating opportunities for glass artists. While there has always been glass work, the demand was significantly on the rise. Galleries were opening up across the nation. So there was really this incredible opportunity for glass artists. Honestly, it’s just getting started. I’m so excited to see what the next few years will bring!
How long does it typically take to create a piece?
It depends on the technique being used as well as the size of the piece. For example, a simple piece may only take an hour or less. A complex piece like a vortex marble would take much longer. There is no single process when it comes to glass. I rely on technique but how long the process takes totally varies.
What inspires you as an artist?
I want my art to be beautiful and useful. I strive for creativity and wearability in my work. Even if it is something like a pendant, the finished piece and end user are always on my mind. I don’t believe you have to sacrifice one for the other. It is possible to have a blend of both.
Any advice for women who are interested in glass work?
If you have any inclination or curiosity about glass work – explore it. I really encourage you to just get out there and do it. Find out if glass work is something that you enjoy. Whether or not you want to make a business out of it, you may discover a new passion, or both. You may be surprised by just how many benefits you can experience. It surprises a lot of people but blowing glass is actually very relaxing. While I know it may sound crazy since you are using a flame, creating glass is a meditative process. Whenever I am finished working I feel totally at ease. And even though I started early in my life, I wish that I would have gotten into glass even earlier! So I encourage other women to do the same. Whether it is glass work or something else, don’t be afraid to pursue your passions. Be willing to take a chance for something great to happen.
Don’t wait around. Life is happening right now. I would also say it’s helpful to do your homework. As a glass artist that has been huge for my career. Even if you’re not in a position to totally jump in, you may discover where your talents may be best used. When I was in Charlotte and not able to take glass classes, I was still sketching and following artists on Instagram. I even had a notebook where I would draw my designs. So I encourage people to not let perceived limitations hold them back. Find a way to make it happen. If you’re passionate about something, pursue it. Even if you are not in a position to do so fully do what you can. You will be surprised where it can take you. Above all, don’t be afraid. Put yourself out there and be willing to take risks.