Crystals are one of Earth’s great gifts to man. The healing energies they possess are both mystical and wonderful – some even believe them to be living, breathing organisms. And on top of it all, they’re breathtakingly beautiful.
Arlie Trowbridge is an artist who, inspired by their total beauty, creates faceted works of glass to look strikingly similar to natural crystals. I’m in love with her creations and so very fascinated by the process.
Want to know more? Yes… I did, too. My darlings, meet Arlie!
Glasswork – so awesome. It’s not something you hear about often. How’d you get into it?
I had always been intrigued by glass growing up, and during college I took a flameworking elective in the craft department. I was finishing up my BFA in photography, and started shooting some of the jewelry designs I was making and posting on Etsy in my free time. My clear glass cluster ring took off really quickly and after graduation I decided to give Urban Revisions my full attention. I’ve been working with glass for five years now and I never get bored. It’s funny how things work out. I always thought I would shoot fashion editorials for a living but working with glass stole my heart and thankfully I learned enough with my degree to photograph it well and keep my online business going strong.
And it’s true, you don’t hear about glass that often but it’s becoming more and more mainstream. That’s part of the appeal to me — glass hasn’t been around as a common medium for very long and people are really starting to push its boundaries. I truly believe it has endless possibilities… I mean, molten glass is hotter than lava! Isn’t that rad to think about?
I adore how your current work is all about forming glass into crystal shapes. What inspired this?
I am totally obsessed with the natural elements of this world we live in. The cluster texture that I’ve been expanding on in my work since the beginning has always reminded me of my crystal collection and adding the faceted shapes just seemed like the next logical and organic step. The first time I joined the two elements together I had an amazing feeling. The best way for me to describe it is similar to finding that one piece that really speaks to you in a crystal shop… but multiply that feeling by 100! These formations I am making are often so similar to real crystals yet so other-worldly at the same time. I’ve had people pick them up really confused and ask “What kind of mineral is this?” Their eyes light up when they hear I made them.
Your pieces are absolutely gorgeous. I’m so in love with this sculpture of yours that is now so happily in my possession. Can you give us an idea of what goes into making something like this?
Thank you! Every piece I make starts out with me melting borosilicate rods (a.k.a. Pyrex – a very strong glass) on my torch. I use stainless steel tools and gravity to shape the piece and when I reach a stopping point, I place it in my kiln to anneal for a while which removes stress and pressure within the piece. With the crystal sculptures, I go through this process several times over a couple days and then join multiple parts together. Every morning I unload my kiln and end up just sitting with the new pieces for a while. Getting to hold what was flaming hot and fluid the day before is magical!
So you do sculptures… jewelry… what other types of glass creations do you make?
I really enjoy making my glass hanging vases. If I’m out for a walk I tend to return home with a couple of picked flowers… even if they’re just pretty weeds! It’s such a sweet sentiment – just walk in the door and place a single bud in a vase.
You create everything in your home studio in Asheville, NC, yes? Describe your ideal work environment… day/night? Music playing? Paint us a mental picture!
Yes! My current home studio is pretty dreamy. My boyfriend and I converted a little sunroom off the front of our house into my flameworking space and it’s perfect in the morning with the sunlight streaming in. Working with translucent glass and the crystal themes – there’s something really special about grabbing that natural light and letting it bounce around a piece while I create it. If I’m on a time crunch, I’ve probably got some funky high energy tunes playing, but most of the time I’m chilling out to some bluegrass or reggae with a cup of coffee or tea.
Asheville’s a really cool city – do you find yourself surrounded by other creative souls like yourself?
I feel so lucky to live in Asheville! The creative community here is so welcoming and supportive. I really feel like the surrounding mountains hug this city and create a warm and happy vibe.
Any favorite hidden gems of the city you want to share?
There are so many! Not very hidden but my favorite recommendations are…
The River Arts District: a bustling community of artist studios lining the French Broad River.
Sunny Point Cafe: best brunch in town!
The Wedge Brewery: bring your pup and try the Witbier.
Chai Pani: delicious Indian street food.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge: mind blowing treats… you’ll want to lounge forever.
And last but not least, a hike up to Looking Glass Rock: to burn it all off and see an amazing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you could only hold onto just one thing you’ve ever made, what would that be?
It would have to be the last thing I made because I am always most excited about my current work.
Any other brilliant creations or endeavors up your sleeves for the near future? Or do we just have to wait and see?!
I really want to push my boundaries and work on a larger scale. I have a feeling these crystal sculptures are going to get much bigger!
And last but never least… what does free mean to you?
Doing what you love – being true to you!
Thank you, Arlie! You are a gem yourself.
Make sure you follow Arlie on Instagram, AND… I’m excited to share that this lovely lady is sweet enough to offer us all 10% off her creations at urban-revisions.com with the code FREELOVE through the holidays!
Photos 2, 6, and 7 courtesy of Arlie Trowbridge.