creative thinkers: amy from formfire glassworks

Amy Holms of Formfire Glassworks is a architect by education and a glass jewelry artist by vocation. Her work is simple – modern – and succulent. I sat down with Amy to find out more about what inspires her, how her design process works, and how her huge web presence as affected her creative business.

Your work appears very scientific to me. What role does science & scientific elements play in your design process?

I think the biggest role they play is that there really is only so much that glass can do. Staying within those parameters and still making ideas happen is really the hard part. For instance, glass likes to be round. It doesn’t like having hard edges unless it is cut or ground. And because my aesthetic tends to be more minimalist and with clean lines, working within those rounded forms is my biggest struggle.

Interesting! I’m a big fan of using rules & guidelines – parameters – to stretch ourselves creatively. Do you agree?

Absolutely. In fact, I got into architecture because of that exact thing. Although I am artistic, working in a vacuum has never appealed to me. I think that having rules and a plan help me to be a better problem solver. I am always trying to see what things I can come up with given the difficulties presented by a project, be it glasswork or architectural rules and program.

Do you ever make up rules for yourself just for fun?

Not as much as I probably should, although there is a lampworking class I teach that is based on limiting your color palette to create a set of beads that can be used together in a piece. I find that people allow themselves a little more leeway in style and other areas when they feel that all the pieces will be connected through a defined colorway.

Oooh! Very cool. Kind of sticking with the idea of guidelines… Your work features a lot of pattern & repetitive elements. Repetition as an act is something that frightens me! How does incorporating repetition & pattern inform your design process?

I think that repetition can either create pattern or rhythm, depending on how it is used. In my larger Interlaced Droplet pieces, the repetition of the interlocked elements creates a pattern because it is so tight together. In some of my other pieces, like my Droplet Stick series, the repetition of elements is more separated and becomes more of a rhythm moving across the chain. I love groups of things and multiples in decorating as well. It makes the whole something more than a sum of parts.

Goodness – the way you describe pattern & rhythm is really musical. I love it.

Thank you! Aesthetics and how they affect people has always been an interest of mine. I really like working with proportion and balance, and that plays into repetition as well.

So, I’m assuming the question you are often asked is how architecture has influenced your glass work. So I’m going to ask the opposite – how has your glass work & jewelry making influenced the way you conceive of architecture?

That’s a tough one. I think it has opened up more of an appreciation for color, texture and depth. I really see the nuances of color in the glass, and have definitely improved in that sphere with my architectural work. The play of pieces off of each other, either through transparencies or a lack thereof, has certainly become more prominent.

I think that the simplicity of color in my jewelry has also shown me that limiting my architectural palette in terms of color and materials can be very appealing as well. I’m less inclined to add extraneous elements into something that is already working well.

It has solidified my love of simplicity.

I do love the simplicity of your work. It’s all about the glass & the color. And the shape. But it’s very unapologetic in it’s simplicity.

That it is. But within that simplicity is a delight for the senses. Not only is there color, but there is transparency and layering, the feel of the glass, and the sound of pieces tapping each other when worn. The glass looks different set against skin than it does when held up to the light.

It has lots of amazing aspects that belie the simple look. And to be honest, making it that simple is not easy, as seems to be par for the course with simple things.

For sure – it’s much easier to cover up bad design with extra doodads and careless details.
You are obviously very passionate about glass! What initially was the draw to that medium?

Honestly, it was a chance occurrence that got me into lampworking. I went to a knitting show (serial hobbyist,) and there was a lampworker there selling beads. I was entranced by them, and looked into it on the web. I found out that there were classes available locally and got started. But I have to say that I have always been a lover of glass – saw glassblowing at both Disneyland and the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach, and could watch it all day.

I also love glass art bowls and vases. It just speaks to me I guess. It didn’t hurt that when I first learned to do lampworking that I was pretty good at it – that gets the juices flowing.

Yes, it’s certainly difficult to be passionate about something you aren’t very good at. Like me & singing.
Anyhow – just one more question!

You are everywhere on the internet. Your web presence, both socially & commerce-wise, seems neverending. Is this a conscious decision or something that’s just evolved – and how has it benefited your art business?

It is a blessing and a curse. I started out on Etsy, and was involved in everything there, but I ended up spending hours trying to keep up. It started taking away from my family time, and I felt that I was marketing more than making. I was also spending way too much time photographing items for sale (early on, I made more commercial style beads.) I made the decision to limit my work to just the more modern pieces, make them custom-made-to-order, and let the pieces fall where they may.

I have multiple venues, but try to let those work for themselves. I am concentrating now on getting my pieces in more gallery settings. I find that people respond best to my work when they can see it directly and when it’s shown to the right audience. In terms of my social web presence, that has evolved as well. I started out getting into everything, and realized that I really needed to be more focused.

I pretty much stick to Twitter, and do my guest blog posts, and now am obsessed with Pinterest. Facebook just became a black hole to me, so I really don’t spend much time there. I think that the Twitter connections have been the most important to me, not so much in terms of promoting, but in creating a network of people who enjoy the same types of things, even though we’ve never met.

I see! Well, I think your decision to focus on the modern pieces has really created a solid brand. I would know your work anywhere. And I totally agree about Twitter being a fantastic place to network. I don’t think many sales come directly from there – but from the connections you make? You bet.
Well, thanks so much for giving me a little peak into your glassy colorful world!

Be sure to check out the Formfire Glassworks website and shop. And follow Amy on Twitter – she’s fun & a great resource!

6 thoughts on “creative thinkers: amy from formfire glassworks

  1. Thanks for this great little interview. I keep an eye out for inspiring stories from artists like Amy. As a fellow jewellery designer I am always looking for inspiration, wherever it may spring from…

  2. Great interview! I love that you feed on the challenges of your given material. Lampwork generally has a much more organic feel to it and I love that you’ve found a way to give it a modern aesthetic with simple, clean lines.

  3. Amy and Tara, fantastic interview! As someone who was also “architecture- educated,” I really appreciated the questions about rules and simplicity. These were the same things that initially attracted me to the profession, and I was both surprised and disappointed to find that they were not valued in school. I think today, complicated is often mistaken for complex when in fact is is merely convoluted. And the nuances in something “simple” are often extremely complex, but no one stops to look! I really loved hearing you talk about repetition and how your pieces are very different when worn. Thanks so much for sharing! -Trisha

  4. Emma — I love finding inspiration from other jewelry designers as well, thanks!

    Brenda — likewise!!! Feel like we’re traveling parallel paths.

    Linda — it is a struggle to keep lamp work clean and modern. Brewing a few new ideas right now, but need to make sure I am able to make what is in my head — sometimes glass doesn’t really like to cooperate with that!

    Trisha — I think it made a little difference that I went to grad school to get my architectural degree instead of undergrad. The undergrad program seemed to be all about wacky concepts, ignoring the fact that 1) it couldn’t be built, and 2) no one would want to use the crazy spaces. Going through the program with older students gave us a little more practical outlook that could then be teamed up with a concept. I am always thrilled to find designers that started out in architecture, because hey are often quite successful — I think it has to do with a creative type that really uses both sides of the brain. In any case, thanks!

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