Glass ‘Flowers’ For Your Garden

Glass FlowersHansville artist Judy Bryant has done a variety of things in her lifetime. For several years, she worked as a draftsperson at Boeing, where she drew the designs of the captains’ panel of the 737 aircraft onto mylar sheets, using special pens. She also worked for Marriott Hotels for 17 years in the accounts payable department.

But neither of those jobs really let her use the artistic skills that she’d honed as an art major at the University of Washington.

So when her husband retired about 15 years ago, Bryant followed his lead and quit her job to concentrate on art projects.

Glass FlowersA good friend, who has since moved to another state, was also an artist, and the two of them collaborated in creating flowers, plant stands and other decorative garden artworks from glass and ceramic tableware like platters, bowls, cups and vases.

“We were among the first to do that kind of thing,” Bryant recalled. “There were a few other people who made bird feeders out of cups, but we took that idea several steps further and started making flowers.”

Since then, many more craftspeople have started making flowers out of dishware, but most of them use glue to fasten all the pieces together.

Glass FlowersBryant never uses glue. Instead, she drills each piece with a diamond bit drill and screws everything to metal and PVC poles.

“Each element is cut to size then drilled and attached with screws,” Bryant said. “And each stem is custom-bent to go with the design.”

The pieces have evolved over the years and now her flowers are much more three-dimensional, she said.

She’s become very skilled at recognizing which materials can be drilled safely.

“I don’t use tempered glass because it doesn’t drill well at all,” she said. “Sometimes, it just explodes. One time, I was planning to use a beautiful bowl that was fairly thick. It seemed OK after I drilled it, but the next day it broke in half.”

Glass FlowersShe also shies away from blue glass because it’s hard to tell if it’s tempered.

“And I don’t use painted or dipped glass because the color eventually comes off,” Bryant said.

Her preference is to purchase her materials from secondhand stores, but nowadays, she also buys some new components.

“Over the years, nice dishes have become much more expensive and harder to find because more people are doing this kind of thing,” she said.

Occasionally, a client will bring an heirloom glass piece for Bryant to transform into a flower.

Glass Flowers“I help them design something, then I drill and help them assemble it,” she said. “But I tell them right away that I can’t guarantee that it won’t break but that we can make something together.

“It might be a pretty bowl or plate or something that belonged to their grandma, that’s just sat in the cupboard for years and now they want to make it into an art piece. So together, we can transform that sweet memory into art.”

Since her studio is in her garage, she does most of the creative work during the warmer months; winters are spent making poles to get ready for summer.

One end of the garage is lined with shelves laden with cups and saucers, platters and bowls waiting to be turned into art. She also stores all her finished pieces in the garage.

Glass Flowers“I tell people that they really should bring their flowers inside during the winter because they might break if we get a spell of freezing weather,” she said. “But I have a friend who’s left her flowers outside all year round for years, and they’re still good.”

Bryant also makes jewelry and has done collage with handmade papers. She also has some wall artworks that could be used outside, including a raku mask crafted from found materials, reminiscent of the Green Man.

Glass FlowersIn years past, Bryant has sold her artwork at the Kingston Farmers Market and also participated in the Gig Harbor Garden Tour and similar events.

This summer, she said, she’ll probably take part in the local Hansville garden tour that raises funds for the Helping Club. The Hansville bakery often has her flowers for sale, but basically, she said, she’s semi-retired and mostly sells her work out of her home.

“When people come to my house to buy something, I really enjoy it. Often, they’re looking for a piece for a special occasion or as a special gift,” she said. “It’s such fun to watch people’s expressions when they see my work. They just smile and it makes me happy to make them happy. It feels like such a compliment to me.”