Bay View kiln-formed glass artist etches her niche with new StudioQ
Michelle Andre's kiln-formed art glass is as functional as it is beautiful. And now that she's opened her own Bay View studio, it's a little easier for her to get the word out about her elegant, yet surprisingly affordable creations.
Until two months ago, Andre worked from her basement. But with ample room at her StudioQ -- named after a family nickname -- Andre can fire up her three kilns and sandblasting booth to take her art to the next level.
"It's been a little intimidating, because now I have to pay rent, but it's been great," says Andre. "It will be one of my focuses this year to get my stuff out there, to get exposure."
Andre isn't a glass blower; rather her works are molded, kiln-formed pieces, including bowls, plates and jewelry. She also creates stained glass pieces and industrial works, like tiles, sinks and wall sconces.
The process is quite different than blowing glass. The glass is not heated to a liquid state, and the force of gravity "slumps" the warmed glass. The pieces are sometimes mixed with pigments and metals into molds to create beautiful, unique -- and mostly functional -- designs.
"I do some strictly aesthetic pieces, but I would say 90 percent of what I make is functional," says Andre.
Andre says she's not aware of many local artists who mold glass, but she says Milwaukee is an artist-friendly city. "It's kind of to my benefit that not a lot of people are doing kiln-formed glass in Milwaukee, because it's intriguing; they don't know what it is. But people tend to love glass -- its shininess and fluidity."
Andre honed her craft in both Seattle and Madison, working in an architectural art glass shop, before moving back to Milwaukee. Her works are currently for sale at her studio, 2469 S. Howell Ave., by appointment only, and will be available on her Web site. She also does commission pieces and hopes to participate in future Gallery Nights.
Andre is also beginning the process of talking to retailers about getting her art in stores -- which may not be a problem, considering the prices she's asking. Keep in mind that Andre uses "compatible glasses" that work together, and the supplies alone aren't cheap. Production time, including two stints in the kiln, can take at least two days. And Andre's highest priced works are about $90. Smaller pieces are a lot less.
But Andre admits she's still in the "getting the word out" mode -- so both she and art glass lovers alike come away happy. For example, Andre displayed some jewelry at the Mount Mary starving artists sale, and the jewelry she priced at $25 "sold like hot cakes."
"I'm trying to stay fairly priced, maybe too much so," says Andre. "Eventually, I think my thrifty nature may need to take a back seat."
Can't wait to check out this new spot. I've been fortunate enough to see her stuff at art shows and it is way cool. Sturdy, practical and beautiful, these pieces are more than Objets d'art. I mean grandmas china once a year is nice, but in my part of the world, we don't stand on ceremony. . . I want my stuff to be a practical part of my lifestyle, it's a bonus that you can admire it when not in use. Saving my pennies for a kickass fruitbowl in the meantime . . .
Wow! beautiful and unique. Besides being an exceptional artisan, Michelle is down-to-earth and approachable. Good luck! I know your business will blossom ~
Hi Michelle, Glen sent us the link to the article on your new studio. We are very happy and excited for you! We wish for you great success in your new studio! All our best, Wayne & Nita
I love your art work and can't wait to set up an appointment. I'm so glad to see OnMilwaukee interview such awesome people.
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