Sara and Michael Beames started Beames Designs! in 1990. Located in the inspiring Hudson Valley of New York, they produce handmade fused glass Judaica, Home Accessories and Jewelry.
Sara is the driving force behind the glass design. With a degree in Art from San Francisco State University and many years in the commercial art world, she has turned her passion for glass and great design into a joyous livelihood. Her work has received three Niche Award Nominations.
Michael, who grew up in Australia, has a background in education and business. His work entails the administration of the business, as well as final quality control.
Beames Designs! work can be found in galleries and craft shops throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, South Africa, Australia and Japan. Special Collections include an ornament for the White House, Washington DC (now in the Clinton Library), an Eternal Flame sculpture for the Kingston City Hall, Kingston, NY, and a Donor Wall for the JCC of Northern Philadelphia. Their goal is to create artwork that is functional, aesthetically appealing and accessibly priced.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Queens, NY and am a second generation American of Lithuanian descent. Because my parents both came from very small families, the Synagogue community became our extended family. I was the first girl to become a Bat Mitzvah at our Temple and also went on to Confirmation. Currently I live in Kingston, NY, with my husband and our long haired dachshund.
What inspired you to become an artist?
It was always there. When I was 11, I started taking pottery classes at a local studio. In college, I was an Art History major, mainly because it required an abundance of different studio classes. Then I discovered glass at San Francisco State University – both architectural stained glass and blown. That was it, I was hooked.
What is your specialty?
For most of the past 30 years, my focus has been creating glass Jewish Ritual Objects. So while the function of a piece does not change, i.e.: a Menorah or Mezuzah, how I express it visually does. The idea for a new piece starts in my mind and needs to gestate there for a while before I approach the glass. I love playing with color and pattern and often it is the materials I find to combine with the glass that speak to me. Experimenting and combining the glass with micas, enamels, fiberglass, glass paints, etc., have continually led me to new designs. I love how you start with sharp and unyielding edges and through the firing process, the pieces melt together, the edges round out and the glass takes on a gloss called a fire polish.
How and where do you work?
We are blessed to live in a beautiful and inspiring area. Kingston, New York sits along the Hudson River and the foothills to the Catskill Mountains. In addition to the natural beauty, it has a very active arts community and is only 90 miles from New York City. We have redesigned a portion of our home to accommodate the studio.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
The most essential elements are glass and the kilns to fire in. Otherwise, the tools for working in glass are pretty basic and simple, glass cutters, and breakers. The other essentials are Michael, my husband and business partner (I do the creative end, he does everything else) and our dachshund Ozzie who provides us with comic relief.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
My love of art history and architecture affects how I look around the world. I am constantly inspired by form, color and function, it is interesting to see how it filters through my mind and into my glasswork.
What projects are you currently working on?
Recently I added laser cut wood in combination with fused glass designs to my line. Currently, I am working on a wood & glass mezuzah that will hold the shards from the smashed wedding glass as well as the scroll.
What is your favourite item in your current collection?
That is a bit like asking a mother, which is her favorite child. My designs are all my babies. However, if I had to choose it would be a tie – the menorahs give me a larger design canvas with which to express myself and the jewelry challenges me to work in a smaller scale.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
When I am working on designing a new piece, I will make it over and over again with minor variables. Eventually there comes an “Aha” moment – that point at which I know that I have hit upon the right solution.
Do you do bespoke work?
Yes, I design and create custom awards for many Jewish organizations as well as personalized pieces, especially for weddings.
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
Initially, I worked in stained glass and thought I would focus on architectural glass. I sold several free hanging panels.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
Recently, I have been challenged and enthralled with working on a smaller scale. I have started a jewlery line featuring fused glass, much of which incorporates silver leaf into the firing.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
So many of our cherished memories revolve around the kitchen table with family and friends celebrating the rituals of life. I love the idea that my pieces become family heirlooms like Menorahs and Mezuzot, and also mark life’s important milestones such as Weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I am overjoyed to become a part of a family’s traditions.
Where can we find your work?
My work is available throughout the US and Canada in Craft Galleries, Judaica Shops, Museum Gift Shops, select Synagogue Gift Shops as well as several on line Judaica web sites. We can also be found at www.beames.com and on Facebook and Instagram.