13 Oct Artist Spotlight – Glass Gardens Northwest
To Barbra Sanderson’s eye, almost anything in the garden can become a work of glass art. She studies nature’s patterns and shapes so she can interpret them into the unique, one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces of blown glass. She has created daisies, mushrooms, birds, carrots, radishes, yams, and pomegranates, and she’s experimenting with peas in a pod in her latest designs.
Barbara’s interest in glassblowing started when she was young, when her parents took her to see the New York Corning Glass Museum. She begged them to buy her a glass ornament – a piece that she still has today. That began a lifelong interest in glass art, which began in earnest in 1998 when she first tried glassblowing.
Originally from Canada, Barbara came to the US to study at the renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, and at the Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle. Her first studio was in Bothell, and then she resettled her studio and gallery, Glass Gardens Northwest, in scenic Mukilteo, located just off the Mukilteo Speedway near the ferry.
Glass is a wonderful medium for garden art. It can be nearly every color in the rainbow, to compliment or contrast with garden foliage and flowers. Glass can shimmer and sparkle and catch the sun in a way metals and wood cannot. It can float on water, or glow with added lighting for a nighttime focal point. Glass flowers can be so realistic that when tucked among real flowers people often lean over to smell the fragrance – only to discover their eyes have been fooled by art that imitates nature.
Barbara loves the challenge of creating custom pieces for her clients. These have ranged from sculptures, lighting and even pond and fountain installations. Right now she is working on a steel and metal sculpture that will encircle a large evergreen tree. Sometimes clients call her to consult on how to artfully arrange the pieces they already own.
Glassblowing takes years of practice and many disappointments before learning how to master the molten glass. According to Barbara, the trickiest part is controlling the heat of the piece as it’s being made – the molten glass in the furnace reaches 2060° F. Too much heat can cause it to collapse; not enough and the piece can crack and fall to the floor. There is also the application of precise heat to certain parts of the piece to create movement. Most of Barbara’s pieces do not collect water inside them, so they are safe for year-round use.
Glass art from Glass Gardens Northwest has been used in a number of recent show gardens at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Fancy Fronds, Greenstone Designs and Plantswoman Design have all used her glass for dramatic effect in their gardens.
Barbara’s work also graces the entrance atrium of the US Bank Center in downtown Seattle. This installation won both the Judge’s Award and the Excellence Award for the 2008 Plantscape Industry Alliance. Barbara’s floats were featured on the cover of the June 2009 Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and the Sept/Oct edition of Fine Gardening featured her glass icicle lights.
Barbara feels so fortunate to be able to combine her love of glass designing and blowing with her love of gardening. When she’s not in the studio she makes time to tend her own one-acre garden in Snohomish County, which she has been working on for six years. It has four smaller “rooms” and a larger open garden and vegetable area. There is a pond, a fountain and a concrete bench in the pet memorial garden. It’s mostly a shady garden so Barbara enjoys working with shade-loving perennials.
Barbara will be exhibiting her beautiful glass pieces at the show in Booth # 1106 so be sure to stop by, or visit her website at http://nwf.gs/aalMJ5 or follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @glassgardensNW.