Before she lays out her first piece of glass, Michelle Hamilton carefully plots out the pattern she wants to create. One by one she’ll lay out 15, and sometimes up to 100, small pieces of glass to create each
translucent layer in her new series of glass sculptures. Then it’s into the kiln, where all her careful planning gets thrown to chance.
“I like being in control,” Hamilton said. “With glass you have to accept that you’re not always in control of what happens.”
For the past 20 years, Hamilton split her time between throwing clay, teaching and working a corporate job in commercial furniture sales. It wasn’t until a year ago that the St. Louis artist returned to the medium she fell in love with while getting her Master of Fine Arts: glass.
“I like being in control. With glass you have to accept that you’re not always in control of what happens.”Michelle Hamilton
Hamilton pulled inspiration for her current work from both near and far. Her Pinterest page shows picture after picture of life deep in the ocean. But for her, the gentle motion of an aquatic medusa’s feathery tentacles relate to the green bean tendrils that slowly climb skyward in her backyard; just as the pods and blooming flowers at her suburban home resemble sea fans and sea anemone.
Hamilton’s new sculptural glass work, with its focus on subaquatic life forms, may seem like a departure from the other fields she’s worked in, but the artist’s background in clay and commercial sales have informed her work in more ways than one. Instead of searching for clay forms to shape her glass layers with, Hamilton simply throws her own.
“I’m able to mold the glass the way I want to, which is pretty unusual because most glass artists are beholden to whatever forms they can find through glass manufactures,” Hamilton said. “I love when life converges like that.”