A renowned basilica in Spain inspires Texas City artist to get serious about working with glass
As a fused-glass artist, Texas City resident Jackie Low loves the beauty of the finished product. But the downside has always been the bits and pieces of glass falling onto the garage floor where she works. So, it was only fitting to receive a Shop Vac as a gift. And that’s exactly what she got from her husband, Bill, recently on their 55th wedding anniversary. She loved it.
A retired occupational therapist and former faculty member at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Texas Woman’s University, Low is a self-proclaimed “art dabbler” whose interest in art piqued in 2004 while visiting Barcelona, Spain.
“I fell in love with mosaics,” she said. “I saw the work of renowned architect Antonio Gaudí, who designed the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, and the use of his mosaics triggered me to start getting serious about working with glass.”
Low became curious about fused glass — melting glass to the point where two or more pieces stick together and become one — and she’s been at it ever since.
There are two areas in her home that serve as her studios — an interior workroom and the attached garage. Her glass designs run the gamut from large bowls to pendant necklaces to rings. She exhibits at the Galveston Art League and has won awards with her “story pieces” — glass that tells a story.
A two-sided purse, titled “Concealed Carry,” depicts the inside of a woman’s purse containing a gun, dagger and skull-and-crossbones pill bottle. It won second place in the three-dimensional category at the 2015 Texas City Art Festival.
“In making this, I was inspired by Ann Richards, the late governor of Texas, who vetoed the concealed-carry bill back in 1993,” Low said. “Richards proclaimed that no woman in Texas could ever find a handgun in her purse.”
Other story pieces, bowls of vibrant colors, plates, clocks, picture frames and coasters are displayed throughout the house. Her glass iridescent flies are big sellers, but the real eyepoppers are the jewelry.
Low is wearing a lime sherbet pendant hanging from a beaded necklace in various shades of green. Its square shape is just bold enough to draw attention to not only the form, but the tiny designs in the middle, called millefiori — Italian for a thousand flowers. It consists of three, tiny cross sections of thin glass atop the pendant.
“I never know what any piece is going to look like until it comes out of the kiln,” Low said.
Her work is time-consuming when the cutting, layering and hours of baking pieces in temperatures as high as 1450 F in her FireBox 14 kiln is considered.
Another method of fusing is with dichroic glass, which has been treated with various metal oxides to make it appear to have many colors.
Bracelets, earrings and pins share space with hundreds of necklaces in Low’s workshop. A diamond blade saw, grinder and two drill presses occupy a side table. Low’s three cats like to snoop around and see what might interest them as she works.
Back out in the garage, Low almost always has something firing in the kiln, while she cuts pieces of 12-by-12-inch sheets of glass into something that will become whatever she wants it to be. Running pliers, nippers, glue and all the necessary tools are within reach on her work table, as she punches, nips and cuts, while those pesky pieces of glass fall onto the garage floor.