Hi, my name is Alla. I have two teenage kids, a husband, two cats, and a busy career, and I love working with stained glass.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in the former Soviet Union and came to the United States when I was 19. While growing up, becoming an artist was not really a stable career option, so my parents insisted I concentrate on my other strong side – math. Still, I did draw, paint, sew, knit, and even work with wood a bit – but it was always only a hobby. When we moved to the USA in 1992, I went on to complete my education in software engineering, and I still work in IT. I like my job because it is quite challenging and I like problem-solving, but at the same time I always needed to have an art hobby, so I always continued to make things.
What is your specialty?
I work with stained glass and fused glass. I stumbled upon working with stained glass almost 20 years ago by pure chance – I was at a yard sale looking for items to make an assemblage out of, and there was a box of glass and other supplies for sale for literally a couple of dollars. I could not pass it up. There was a glass cutter in the box, and a book about how to make stained glass. I read a few pages and was amazed that it was not complicated. Moreover, it turned out that the box I just purchased contained almost everything I would have needed: the only thing missing was a glass grinder. So, that very evening, I cut out a few pieces of glass, smoothed down the edges somewhat with sandpaper, foiled them and soldered them together. That’s how I made my first stained glass panel, 4 by 5 inches in size, and I’ve kept it to this day.
How and where do you work?
I have a workroom in the basement of our house, and it has a window! It is full of glass sheets, nuggets, tools, lamp bases; there’s even a kiln. I go down to my workroom whenever I have some time, even if it is for an hour, to disconnect and de-stress. It does not happen as often as I would like it to, but I take any opportunity I get. I sell my works through word of mouth, my website, and on Etsy, and when the orders come in, I very much welcome the fact that now I “have to” go make them – it gives me a great excuse to postpone some of the chores.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
I take my inspiration from nature. I like to make landscapes, pieces with plant motifs, and I also like to work with agate slices. Semi-translucent agate slices are just amazing, and they really kick-start my imagination. Agate slices fit in with stained glass surprisingly well: they add texture, depth, and the “Wow! factor”.
One recurring theme I have are the Hanukkiahs. Every year I make a new design and use it to light the Hanukkah candles with my family. Of course, I take pictures, and then list the design for sale in my shop. I gift the Hanukkiahs to my friends and family as well – Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays.
Do you do bespoke work?
Yes, I love working on custom orders. Custom orders are a great catalyst for thinking outside of the box. The requests can be very specific: please make a panel with sheep to match an existing one with a shepherd dog. They also can be very open-ended: we’re putting in pantry doors, and we’d like to keep the light on in the pantry and the stained glass in the doors to create a warm atmosphere. Sometimes, the request sounds quite impossible at first, and takes me quite a while to come up with a design, for example: create a memorial panel for two black cats who were found at the beach and loved to watch sunsets. The process of working with the customer on a design is very thrilling to me, and I am often surprised at the finished piece.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
I would like to continue working with glass and be able to sell it just like I do now. I know it does not sound like much of a goal, but for me it is the ideal setup. My sales are sometimes a trickle and sometimes an avalanche, and that works for me. I’m not looking to make this hobby into a full-time business, and I’d like to be able to just escape to my workroom and enjoy working with glass. When something sells and I have to go make it, it gives me a chance to relax, get a little bit of rest, and get my mind off of the daily routine.
Where can we find your work?