Meet artist Jenifer Chappell
I have always known you as a creative and talented person. It is inspiring to see your business, Elements of Fusion, take off. Every time I wear a piece of your glass jewelry I receive compliments!
Where can people find you and your work?
something that comes naturally to me, which keeps me going, and continually heals. It is an ever growing passion that has flourished as my life has…. ever changing reflecting both where I’m going and looking back at where I’ve been.
What has been your process of getting to where you are now in your artistic career?
I spent most of my high school years avoiding everything but art, so I knew going off to college that I should probably focus on what I could do, that would satisfy all of my needs. So I spent a number of years at various colleges and universities trying to figure it all out. In the process of course, I married my husband and started working at a school for children with Autism. Ten years have passed by and I still am married, still work for the same school and now have two beautiful children. I realized that for us, for now, the money that I need to survive comes from my job and the time that I am able to devote to my passion for the arts is limited, but it is an essential part of who I am. I look forward to a time when money does not play such a key part in my need to work, raise my children and manage my artistic career. I know that day will come.
You have taken a lot of art courses. Why did you decide to focus on fused glass?
All of the courses and the creative process itself lead me to where I am today. The courses gave me a tremendous base to draw from. Each course builds upon the next and allows me to be more successful in the execution of my ideas. When I was in high school I worked with a woman who did Stained Glass. I asked her if she would teach me and spent two years learning the basics and working on projects that gradually got more difficult. After making a panel for my Mom’s kitchen cabinet she too wanted to learn and she now teaches. The studio she teaches in held a one day fused glass workshop that I went to. I learned the basics there and through several years of trial and error, reading books and guides to fusing, and just lots of practice I am now successful in what I do. I have my Mom to thank for providing me with all of the tools to get started, signing us up for our first craft show and providing me continued support over the years. She not only does amazing Stained Glass but started making Lampwork beads as well. We now do at least five shows a years and offer a wide variety of pieces from jewelry to lamps.
Glass is an amazing medium that has become my favorite to work with. Like paint or pastels it comes in a rainbow of colors. When layered together the effect changes and it creates a new, often unique combination. I can work for 5 minutes or for countless hours at a time. I think this is why I developed such a passion for it. It allows me to think and work outside the box, come up with my own ideas and work at my own pace. I am able to complete many small projects quickly and it gives me a great satisfaction when I stand back and look at what I’ve accomplished. Someday when my kids are older I will work on big projects again, but for now I love what I am doing and have had an amazing response from so many people. That’s how I know, for now, that fused glass is my thing.
Can you talk a little bit about your process?
Often it all starts with an idea or a concept that I have been milling over. I need a deadlines in place to keep myself motivated so I quickly found that having shows not only is a great way to get out and showcase my work, but it also sets a time line for me and keeps me focused. After the show last weekend I have several requests for custom pieces. I typically focus on one style at a time and work in stages. One of my favorite times is when I have new glass that I want to play with. I am always looking at new and different designs, but also have to keep making the styles that people have come to look for.
Obviously everything starts with selecting the glass to work with. I have a variety of cutting tools to create straight cuts, intricate shapes and circles. Once the pieces are cut to the desired shape they are layered with other pieces and placed in one of my kilns. Another way I start is by creating my own sheets of glass using pieces of frit (small bits of glass), recycled glass and 3mm sheets of glass allows my pieces to truly be unique. All of my pieces are fired between 1250 and 1500 degrees and cooled slowly to allow for proper annealing which strengthens the glass. As I mentioned before I work in stages. As I am running a business I not only have to enjoy what I am doing but also have to keep my costs down as much as possible. Sometimes this means working for a couple of weeks on earrings and then firing them all at once since my new kiln is much larger. I have to keep the pieces in groups that will be fired to the same temperature so often I have several trays waiting to be fired until I have enough for a full load in the kiln. Once the glass has cooled it is either ready to be finished or will be added to more glass and re-fired. I have a few favorite metal workers that I get earring wires from and select styles that complement my designs.
What I create has evolved and started with a simple line of earrings of various leaf shapes and has evolved into an extensive line of jewelry including earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. I use a variety of types of fusible glass now including Dichroic glass which has become a favorite at shows! I just launched my new line of garden stakes this spring, which is something that I have been working on executing for a few years. I’ve have included flowers, bumblebees, ladybugs and dragonflies so far but hope to have some new ones ready before fall.
One of the things I really admire about you is your time management skills. With two children and a full time job how do you find the time for your art career?
I make time. When my son is napping and after the kids are in bed is my time for me. Some people relax by reading or watching TV but I don’t sit well. Being creative keeps my mind going and gives me energy, okay the coffee helps too! It is not easy, some days are more successful than others, and I learned that if I don’t have expectations but rather goals it is much more rewarding. It is the only thing that I do for me. As a mother having a daughter who is creative and shares a lot of the same passions is equally as rewarding. My daughter is getting older and was able to spend two days with me to the last show. It’s wonderful to spend the time with her but also for me it is important for her to see how hard I work. These are times she will remember for a lifetime, life lessons that will stick with her and make her successful.
What advice would you give to mothers in regards to following their passions?
You have to remember who you were before you had kids. Remind yourself of what the things were that made you happy, kept you going. For me, my children are the most amazing things that have happened to me. But, as a mother, no one is there to take care of you. As a mother you are constantly worrying about everyone else’s needs. No one stops to make sure you have eaten, showered, rested. So, make sure that you find time during the day, during the week, whenever you can to remind yourself of what else is important to you. Everyone has passions and a need to feed them to make you feel whole. It took me a long time to understand this and find a balance and it’s ever changing….but you just have to keep re-evaluating your life and focusing on what is most important to you.
Your dedication to making time for your creative passion is inspiring! Who has inspired you?
I have been in love with Monet’s work for as long as I can remember and have had several opportunities to see them in real life, and still to this day, find them breathtaking. Certainly there have been several teachers over the years that have helped me along the way that I will be eternally grateful. However, I find the people I meet today, that stop and talk with me or ask questions is far more rewarding. I received an e-mail last week from a woman who purchased a pair of earrings and wanted to take the time to tell me how much she liked them, how happy they made her feel and that to me, is worth more than anything. That is what keeps me going. Lastly, you always do! I am amazed and thankful that there are people like you who take the time to help others, encourage and inspire them, thank you!
You are so welcome! Thank you for saying that.
Are there any other tips to living a creative life that you’d like to share?
Get out! Go be inspired by others. Go to a local shop and look at what others are doing. Art Festivals are full of amazing creative people. Go to a new one and stop and chat with people and learn from them, there process and where they’ve been. Soak in your surroundings or take a trip to find new ones! Always bring a camera; you don’t have to be a photographer to capture images that inspire you. Fill your home with inspiration. I have found that Artists always have the most amazing homes. Take a class that inspires you to learn about something new and then incorporate it into your life. Lastly, never be afraid to try something new, that’s when the most amazing things happen.
Finally can you tell us what shows you will be at this coming year?
So far these are the 2010 shows I will be at:
Gaspee Days Arts & Crafts Festival
May 29, 30 & 31st
Warwick Rhode Island
The Big “E” Rhode Island State building September 17-21st (first five days)
West Springfield MA
Scituate Art Festival
October 9, 10 &11th
Scituate Rhode Island
Old Deerfield Christmas Sampler
November 19, 20 & 21st
West Springfield MA
Castleberry Christmas Craft Expo
Dec 3, 4 & 5
Jenifer, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I hope it will inspire others to find time in their lives for pursuing their own passions.
“Inspiring Artists!” will be an ongoing series. It will run as long as there are inspiring artists out there wanting to share their stories. If you are an artist and would like to participate please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!!
Check back next week to read the inspiring interview with painter, Karen Meredith.