Having grown up just 12 miles down the road from Brasstown, many of Tommye Scanlin’s earliest Folk School memories date back to her youth. In the mid-1960s, she and her boyfriend would often catch a glimpse of campus on their way to the drive-in movie theater in Peachtree. Since those drive-in, drive by days, Tommye’s Folk School story has come full circle.
Tommye was officially introduced to Folk School classes by Bob Owens, a potter who also happened to be the head of the Art Department at North Georgia College where Tommye taught art and textiles. “I was learning about weaving at the time,” Tommye says, “trying very hard to figure it out on my own. In the summer of 1974, I had the chance to take a weaving class.” During her week as a student, she learned to read weaving drafts and added to her growing love of the craft. “With my newly gained knowledge, I doubled down on my weaving and within a year or so began to show and sell my woven works.”
CP: Why do you like glass?
KR: Glass is a magical, magical, magical medium. Never a liquid or a solid, glass is always in between those two states of matter. Through heat, you can control its characteristics. I believe that there are endless possibilities in glass as a creative medium. It is a wonderful combination of "science meets art." The way you see glass is all about the light.
CP: What made made you want to be a glass artist?[caption id="attachment_8864" align="alignleft" width="184"] Bargello-inspired piece[/caption]
KR: I was into many crafts and I especially loved quilting - piecing things together. For Valentine's Day in 1981, my husband gave me a pair of grozing pliers and a glass cutter and encouraged me to try glass. Working with glass filled my soul, so I started my love affair with cold glass techniques (like stained glass) etched under 1000 degrees.
From there I wanted to try it all, so I learned warm glass techniques (like fusing, fritting, and ground glass) and plastic glass which is glass at a temperature above 1650 degrees (like beading). Now I have been working and teaching glass for over 30 years. My studio out of Huntsville, AL is Earthstar Glass.
CP: What inspires you?[caption id="attachment_8866" align="alignright" width="192"] An example of Powder Painting achieving a watercolor look by Karen Reed.[/caption]
KR: Creative challenges. I take inspiration from other media, like oil painting, watercolor, pastels, quilting, and think: "I would like to figure that out in glass."
I also take technique driven inspiration from different cultures around the world, I get lost in a subject. For example, I look at Balinese Folk Art and wonder "how can I make that in glass?"
CP: Functional or Decorative?
KR: It's a balance. As an independent studio we need to do functional work and custom pieces to fund our other more conceptual and creative pieces. My creative work is what goes in the galleries, the functional and smaller-sized work pays the bills. Small will sell better, but I love doing the big pieces.
CP: Who is your favorite glass artist?
KR: Harry Clarke (1889 -1931) a master of stained glass from Ireland.
CP: What’s the most meaningful piece you’ve ever made?
KR: The 57 fused glass panels for the chapel in Madison, AL. In 2012, I was commissioned by three siblings to create an installation piece in a hospital chapel to commemorate their parents. Because of a lead ban, you cannot put lead in a hospital, so the siblings had a hard time finding an artist to hire. I have been fusing glass over 25 years and was honored and delighted to be able to work on such a commission. I loved every second of it! They wanted something soothing, non-denominational and artistic with nature as a theme - a place of retreat for everyone to enjoy.