I work full time as a nurse, I run a business from home as a Glass Smith and I am a mother. I somehow figured out how to balance these roles and I am so thankful for that.
For a long time, I didn’t have something just for myself. After college, I started my nursing career and my family. I did glass work here and there but did not commit to it. I had the habit of putting others needs first. But now I have glass art as an outlet that brings me inner peace and calmness. I now can truly help and care for others on a deeper level due to my art and self love.
I discovered my love for fused glass through a few unplanned events. My first experience was when I was a sophomore in college and a classmate had a kiln in his dorm room. Of course, this was confusing to me and so I began asking questions; What are you doing with a kiln? How did you bring a kiln into your dorm room? What are you making with a kiln? I still have no idea how he snuck a kiln into his dorm room. You weren’t even allowed to have a hot plate!
Well he gave me a quick rundown about how his mom taught him to make glass work using a kiln and now he does it to make side money. He gave me a quick lesson. I made a couple of pieces which I have to this day, (I consider them my good luck charms).
The next experience was when I was a senior in college. I wanted to take some fun credits and my husband told me about a stained-glass class he was in that he loved and thought I ought to try. Well, the class wasn’t offered that semester, but fused glass was. I instantly had a flash back about the kid with the kiln in his dorm, and I was like YES! This is when I truly fell in love with glass and how dynamic and intricate it could be. You can make anything- and I always loved making things. So glass making and I were meant to be.
There is a lot of potential for injury with glass work, so safety is important. Glass is sharp and it takes very high temperatures to fuse it. 1400F- 1600F is when glass begins to melt and take shape. It gets really dangerous when combing it; combing is the process of opening the kiln at these high temperatures and taking a metal tool to create swirls and designs in the glass.
Cold working with glass also has its dangers. This is the process of cutting glass with hand tools and/or a diamond blade saw, grinded down, and layered. Gloves and glasses are highly recommended or cuts and injuries WILL occur. Blood, sweat, and tears can be a literal aspect of some days in the shop!
A lot of time goes into researching colors, designs, and techniques. I love to learn new ways to interact with glass and I love to create art that people will love.
Customers can request specific designs. A lot of my custom work has been for night lights. I have made many sheep night lights, that I was literally counting sheep (night lights) in my sleep.
I can make custom jewelry. The key is to understand how the customer visualizes the piece being worn with an outfit or an occasion. It is important for the customer to understand that glass is dynamic. It can turn out completely different from what was originally imagined. That’s why it’s so fun to work with! It’s like Christmas every time I open my kiln!
A source of inspiration are my children. They love to be in the studio with me, so I allow them to help me in little ways. I give them projects of picking colors of glass or helping me pick a design for a night light, etc…. The unicorn night light in my store is very special because it was co-created with my five year old daughter.
These night lights are a lot of fun to make and they send color throughout the room at night! My family loves having night lights through our entire house. They are a great way to add functional décor and personality to a home!
I am always trying to make something new and my newest work is with glass and deer antlers that we find when hiking. There is something beautiful about combining organic material with the glass. I am so excited to share them!
I do have to say, none of this would be possible without my husband. He always encouraged me to pursue glass. He bought me my first kiln as a gift for graduating nursing school. I know without his support and love I wouldn’t be the person I am today!
You can support Ashley’s small shop by treating yourself to her beautiful pieces. Click Here to shop and be sure to follow Ashley’s journey on Instagram at @ralphiesglass_