ARTIST FEATURE: Laura Simone - Third Degree Glass Factory
ST. LOUIS, MO 63108
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Meet our new featured artist this month – Laura Simone! She is an artist in many forms, from glass work to painting and so much more.

How did you begin working with glass?

When was 16 years old, I experienced a medium that would change the course of my artistic life.

I was already eight years into painting with oils and my teachers had given me access to everything from ceramics to silversmithing so my mother brought me – on a friends recommendation – to watch a local glassblower at work. While I watched – mesmerized – as Doug Sheafor of AlBo Glass Studio coaxed form from molten glass, my mother was chatting with his wife and realized that they were related!  The relation was distant, but at the time, zoning laws for the glass studio maintained that family could work there and they hired me on the spot.  My journey with glass was begun.  A few weeks later the Sheafor’s sent me off to Grants Pass Oregon to train with their son Nathan (The Glass Forge) and the other glass artists at the studio.  While I was there learning the basics of glassblowing, Nathan’s wonderful wife Michelle taught me the beginnings of stained glass technique and took me out to sell work at my very first art shows.

After my training at the Glass Forge, I jumped right in and worked 3 days a week at AlBo Glass Studio, finished high school, started college and soon found myself apprenticed to a local Stained Glass artist as well.  Tamra Yancey (Creations Unique) taught me the finesse of repairs on ancient glass windows and the precision of creating custom modern windows as well as getting me started in fused glass.  I began producing fused glass jewelry to sell at local art shows and markets.

By the time I was preparing to move to St. Louis with Andrew and start a new life that was more “paint oriented” than past years had been,  I had well over a decade of experience in multiple forms of glass medium, years of customer service and retail experience, years of teaching experience in glassblowing, fused and stained glass and even a little experience on the torch.  When I wandered into Third Degree Glass Factory to check it out as a possible wedding venue and just to see a cool new studio in my new town, I left with a job. Yetunde (the educational director at the time), greeted me, we squealed over mutual love of the medium and art and she dragged me back to introduce me to Doug Auer. (Strange and wonderful that my glass bosses for the last two decades have been Doug’s) They had already decided I worked there and I had to tell them I wasn’t even going to be moving for a few more weeks… I signed paperwork before I left and started 2 days after I unloaded the UHaul.  It is the the best (and only!) job I have ever been coerced into.  I had intended to work in the hot shop, as glassblowing had been my main medium for some time, but help was needed in the flame studio for summer camps and I was pressed into service.

I fell in love all over again.

Glass on a torch was an entirely different creature – and it was glorious. Thanks to the efforts of Libby Leutchman (the Flame Director at the time) I was instantly and singularly obsessed with the torch.  I migrated studios and didn’t look back. Over the next years I went from beginner to teacher and have had the fantastic opportunity to take classes with internationally renowned master glass artists and to teach college level courses on torchwork. (I like to think my life-long pursuit of art and my many years in glass helped me catch on quick, but I can always blame my wonderful mentors.) I still help out in the hotshop when a fellow artist needs an assistant and I love my full time work assisting our Kiln Director, Mark Salsbury, in fused awards production (so awesome to be learning all new things about a medium I thought I knew!) – but the torch has captured my heart.

My life has been a fantastic series of artistic catalysts.  Propelled and encouraged by supportive teachers, friends and family, I have found myself again and again in the perfect place and the right time to learn new ways to create new things.  Creativity has even come full circle for my original art degree and I find myself dabbling in glass painting…  I have no idea what is in store for my artistic future, but I am enjoying the journey very much.

What inspires you?

I find that while I draw some inspiration straight from nature and the visual elements found therein, I am always far more inspired by the art and ideas of others. I love wandering an art gallery until my eyes unfocus and I can’t see the art in front of me for all the ideas in my head.  Lost in thought of how those techniques could be utilized, how those colors could be re-combined in a different medium, how the concept could be re-imagined in glass.  I also am inspired by the inspiration of others.  I love that in listening to another artists ideas, experiencing their excitement with them, and encouraging them in pursuit of the finished work, my mind fills up with “what-if’s”.  Spin-offs and alterations and side projects in a similar tone but different technique. Sometimes inspiration comes from the visuals a poem generates, sometimes an amazing photo that a friend popped on Instagram, sometimes a sentence taken at random from a conversation or a favorite book that sticks in the back of your mind and breeds visuals that have to be released in a more tangible form.  If you don’t feel inspired as an artist, try to inspire others.  The feedback loop works wonders.

What’s in your toolbox?

Which toolbox?  While torchworked glass is my main medium currently, I work on the regular in Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor and glass paints, leaded, copper-foiled and fused glass, some basic woodworking and even resin casting.  I use a plethora of brushes, grinders, saws, sanders, graphite markers and tungsten picks, various IKEA cutlery…  I feel like if an artist is “doing it right”, ANYTHING can become a tool in creation.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on building stock for the upcoming glass conference in Vegas (The ISGB Gathering), trying to perfect some newly learned techniques for realistic animal relief sculptures in glass, and trying to tackle the growing list of custom orders for Dragon pendants to pet portraits on canvas to a painted memorial stained glass window.

What do you teach?

Currently I teach the flame portion of the Washington University Glass Sampler class and the 15 week Flame course.  I really like having the time to explain the reasoning behind why you are doing something a certain way and so I am much stronger at the longer classes than the short experiences.  Full disclosure – I have never been good at “short & sweet”.  I have taught a few kiln experiences and have done a few paperweight experiences in the hot shop, but I really prefer the longer, more in-depth classes.
I love to share my love of glass with others!

What do you love to do when not in the studio?

When I am not working or teaching or playing at Third Degree, I am usually working with one of the several mediums I have set up in my home studio. Or, more likely, snuggling with my husband and cats on a comfy couch watching some odd new show that he’s found.  I love to read (sci-fi and fiction mostly) but I find it difficult to be productive in the middle of a book (I will literally stay up all night reading…) so I have to plan my book binges wisely. I very much enjoy trips to the art museum and galleries to re-energize my inspiration and I adore art shows because of the interactions with the artists.  Given the chance, I will road-trip anywhere.  I love the journey by car and the wonderful visual inspiration the passing landscape creates.At this point in my life, I don’t know how I could be any happier.  I have an amazing and supportive partner, wonderful family, adorable kitties, comfy house with a full studio, and I get to learn, make and teach art for a living.  Can it get better than this?

We’re open Monday-Saturday 10:00a-5:00p and Sunday 11:00a-4:00p.

Follow Third Degree on Instagram @stlglass

Follow Laura on Instagram @ebbflowarts


Mark Your Calendar!

Third Friday July 19 is a district-wide block party with Makers Market, live music, & more from MADE, Craft Alliance, TDG, & Magic House.
Third Friday