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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Artist Series ~ Elizabeth Lyons

If you read my blog, you know I love glass art. Glass and light together can mesmerize. It is one of my favorite materials to place in my designs. Naturally, I would include an glass artist in my series. Not just any artist though ~ Elizabeth Lyons.

Perhaps you have seen her work in one of these.....

One day I wandered into Elizabeth's studio. I was hooked the moment I entered. I made my husband go back to my mom's house to get my camera. Elizabeth and her assistant were busy working away. She let me look around. I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into. I immediately asked her to be interviewed for my series. She graciously agreed.

First, let's take a look at her studio and some of her work then we'll peak inside her thoughts.

Every color of the rainbow and then some.
This is no joke. That is the thermostat! Not for the faint of heart.
Here is her assistant getting some glass for Elizabeth to work with.
Elizabeth is creating a piece for one of her chandeliers. They even build the frames for the chandeliers themselves.
A different glass object being blown here than the piece they were working on above.
Tools of her trade.

Looks like a creative place with wonderful lighting! Speaking of lighting.....

I saw all of these in person. They are striking! The detail is unparalleled.

Beautiful!So unique, so lovely.

Elizabeth struck a cord in me. Why? Because you know the reason I am doing the artist series, yes? I am a firm believer in art and music education in our public schools. I interview successful artists or artist-types to see how they rose to the top in their field ~ art has always played a significant role. Elizabeth not only believes in art education, she teaches in an urban school herself. Here's the interview. Don't worry ~ more of her beautiful work will come.

PG: Tell me about yourself. Your family.

EL: I am from a family of artists. My mother, Joan Lyons, is a photographer, printmaker and book artist and my father, Nathan Lyons, is a photographer and the founder and former director of Visual Studies Workshop here in Rochester, NY. The family business on my father’s side was chandeliers and mirrors. I remember visiting as a kid and being awestruck by the crystals and glass.

PG: Please tell me how you decided to do art for a living?

EL: I always knew I would be an artist.

PG: Your main medium is glass and glass mixed with other materials. Do you do any other types of art (e.g. paint, music)? If so, what are they?

EL: I never limit my possibilities by working in only a few materials. I like to conceive the idea then figure out the best material. I love working with found objects and or discarded materials as well.

I am interested in the primal relationships of fire-molten glass, metal, sand-earth, and wood; constructing a parallel between process and material object. Each piece takes on its own qualities of light, texture, and form; defining space and a sense of age and time. Contrasting blown and cast-glass forms with steel, cement, paint, and found objects, broadens the vocabulary. The use of glass in my work goes beyond the beauty of the material to emphasize the rawness of its most basic states: hot, cool, and cold. This elemental quality is inherent to the material and fundamental to how I use it.

PG: Why glass?

EL: It is the ability to transmit and reflect color and light that makes glass so seductive. It is one of the most versatile materials.

PG: Did you formally study your art form?

EL: Alfred University, sculpture and glass.

PG: If yes, what were the main points you took away with you and how have you added to them?

EL: Alfred has an amazing foundations program that is conceptually based. In that freshman course I learned how to think, design, solve problems and communicate ideas visually. I continue to draw from that experience in my work and my teaching.

PG: I really enjoyed viewing the Women’s Tools sculptures? How did you come up with this series?

EL: I was working on a series of sculptural tools and weapons that related to the human body on a number of levels. Woman’s tools seemed as important as any other tool. We are after all- building, nurturing and creating life every day.

PG: Can you tell me where your inspiration comes from for your work?

EL: I am constantly looking at things including the natural world and beauty found in unlikely forms and places. I have always been inspired by nature. I love the contrast between the man-made and organic.

When I was thinking about the chandeliers and sconces I was inspired by forms found in nature and by the specific, formal qualities of the materials: glass and steel. The structures' geometric forms in steel are juxtaposed with organic shapes hand-blown and sculpted in glass. Each fixture is a balance of masculine and feminine qualities.

I like the idea of creating beautiful sculptural objects that have a purpose in peoples’ lives. A chandelier should glow and at the same time cast beautiful light throughout the space.

PG: Are you trying to convey something within your art? If so, what?

EL: The sculptural work is very different from the design work. However, I am firstly a sculptor and my background and experience informs the more decorative work. I enjoy both paths and they do cross over. The sculptural work is loaded with meaning. For example the Hand Tools and Arms series is described in the artist Statement below.

“Hand Tools and Arms, deals with the fine line between construction and destruction. The human power that assembles and wields these tools/weapons becomes an integral part of the work. This installation, a tool shed/arsenal and a collection of hand tools and arms, questions the ambiguous relationship between building and destroying, reconstruction and war. Someone has been up late tinkering in the shed.”

The Big Jars and chandeliers are more concerned with the formal elements of design including color, form, texture, light, etc. They are designed as decorative and utilitarian objects. A balance of form and function.

PG: How do you remember art (all art forms) as a child?

EL: Art was just part of my life as a kid. My mother was a painter when I was young and she painted every day. We were always making things at home. I grew up in a very creative home.

PG: You have worked your self with middle and high school students for two decades. Tell me about this? Why did you decide to do this and continue it?

EL: I teach art in an urban public comprehensive high school here in Rochester. I have been teaching art to high school students for 2 decades. I have been fortunate to work with an incredibly diverse group of students. Many of them have gone on to collage art programs and successful art careers. I think it is as important for younger students to have teachers that are experts in their fields as it is for college students. I practice what I teach and I am passionate about making art and they know it. Working as an artist gives me credibility with my students and fuels my teaching practice. Believe me, high school kids know who’s credible.

PG: What are your thoughts/beliefs about art education in schools for children in general?

EL: Learning in the arts should be a core value of every elementary and secondary program in this country. I know first hand that art saves lives. Art supports learning in every subject but I truly believe in teaching art for arts sake.

PG: You also have youth classes in your studio. Are you trying to instill more than the art of glass?

EL: I have been committed to educating young people in my studio for many years through summer programs, workshops, internships and special artists’ projects. Recently I have been working with groups of students on large-scale community mosaic projects. Children have the power to transform aspects of their communities given the tools and guidance. Art is just one avenue.

PG: Tell me about the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation award in 2005.What does the award represent and what was it like to receive it?

EL: The award is given to 10-woman artist nationally each year. The nomination and the selection process are completely anonymous. It was the most surprising and amazing recognition I have received. I am truly honored to have been included among all those incredible woman artists.

PG: Please tell my readers where they can see and purchase your work.

EL: There is a list of retail stores that carry the Big Jars and other decorative objects. Those items are also available through the studio if there is not a store in your area. The chandeliers are only available directly from my studio.

More Fire Glass Studio
80 Rockwood Place
Rochester, NY 14610


PG: Thank you Elizabeth for your time and your beautiful work.

Speaking of which, here is some more.....

In addition to the work shown here, she has sculpture series that you may see on her website. I encourge you to do so.

I am doing this post now just in time for the holidays. Imagine the reaction you'll recieve by giving one of her gems as a gift. It will be a lifetime treasure. Elizabeth used the word seductive to describe glass. I could not agree more. With light, it captivates one with its beauty and soul.

Honey, I know what I want for Christmas!

I am joining the party at Between Naps on the Porch (she has a lovely giveaway on her blog today) and Smiling Sally ~ Elizabeth's work is a magnificant metamorphisis and blue is abundant! Hop over there to join in.

Yay! I was invited to join the Its So Very Creative Party at Its So Very Cheri. Check it out!


  1. WOW--I don't know what to say beside=WOW. I have seen glass blowers doing projects but this is amazing.

    I would love to have you post to my Its So Very Creative party.


  2. Oh Paula, I DO know what I want for Christmas, but I don't know who would be able to get it for me! I love glass art too, especially cobalt blue pieces. Thank you for visiting and thinking of getting your camera to take and share these photos so that I can look, learn, and better appreciate an artist like Elizabeth. Have a Happy Blue Monday.

  3. Thank you Cheri! I'll join in all the fun right now!

  4. Paula- She truly is an artist! What incredibly lucky kids to have her as a teacher. I wondered when you asked her how she decided to do art for a living...it seems she had no choice. I can't imagine her doing anything else or being happy without it. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. What a glorious post. I love the blue grass you've chosen to share with us today. Have a great Blue Monday.

  6. Stunning, beautiful, fantastic...


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