Today it’s my pleasure to visit in the studio of Marja Huhta, of Glass Elements. I came to know Marja when we submitted work for the weekly challenge on Thursday Sweet Treat, a great blog by a very special person, Natasha. One week the theme was “Purple Passion.” I had recently lost a dear niece to cancer, and she had a passion for the color purple. So when I saw Marja’s submission, this lovely purple heart, I bought it on the spot, and it will forever remind me of my niece.
I love her work, and I was therefore very happy that Marja agreed to this interview. So … here we go!
FK: What’s your morning “cuppa,” Marja?
Coffee! Preferably locally roasted fair-trade organic coffee. Yes, I’m serious about my coffee. My favorite? Pangaea Organica Coffee
FK: Well, I guess you ARE serious! I’ll pour the coffee while you tell us about your etsy shop and other sites.
My etsy shop is http://www.glasselements.etsy.com/. I’m on Twitter www.twitter.com/mhuhta, Facebook www.facebook.com/glasselements and on flickr www.flickr.com/photos/glasselements.
FK: Here’s some of Marja’s gorgeous work from her flickr site.
FK: Your work is stunning. Did you have formal art training?
I don’t actually have a formal art education background – I went down the path of a traditional science education where I felt (at the time) like there was no time for art!
I spent most of the time during my long science education trying to ignore the call of the artist inside. When I was finally at a point where my career was paying the bills, and I could spend some extra to take art classes at local community art schools, it was like a switch was turned on. The person hiding inside had a way out, and she wasn’t ever going to be quiet again. I’ve tried many mediums during my period of self re-discovery, learning from working artists at non-profit community art centers – including Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in DC, The Art League in VA, and Pratt Fine Art Center in Seattle.
FK: I can relate to that – I wasn’t encouraged to take art seriously when I was young. I was over 30 when I enrolled in college for my art degree! Tell us about your family life.
I live in beautiful Seattle, WA with my husband, Jonathon Colman. Known as a bit of a wanderer by my family and friends – I grew up in CT and have hung my hat in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington, DC, three wonderful (but too short) months in Australia, and now in Seattle. Seattle has its hooks in us – we have settled down in our first house and plan to stay for a while! It might be the locally roasted coffee.
FK: Ahhh … now I understand your passion for coffee – you live in Seattle! And a small coincidence – your husband grew up practically next door to me in Ann Arbor, Michigan!
FK: Talk to me about your etsy shop. And do you exhibit or sell anywhere else besides etsy?
I signed up for my etsy shop in Sept 2008. I started selling my work in 2007 to acquaintances, colleagues and friends while I was working a full time job in biotech. After moving across the country from DC to Seattle in May of 2008, I was faced with a generous opportunity: to strike out on my own doing what I love. After several months of preparation, I took the plunge and started selling online at Etsy.
I also participate in local art and craft shows - and I really enjoy them! It is a fantastic way to meet new people, other local artists and craftspeople and share the love of glass directly. I find juried shows are the best venues for showcasing my work.
FK: I am really interested in your fused glass technique. Is it possible for you to give a brief explanation of your process?
I use compatible glass from Bullseye Glass Company out of Portland, Oregon for all of my glass work. I design, hand-cut, and layer each piece – whether a small jewelry item or a large platter – before placing it in a kiln and firing to approximately 1500 degrees. I then anneal (cool) the glass slowly for enhanced strength and durability. A typical firing cycle lasts 15 hours. Finally, the beauty of each unique piece is revealed by further cutting and shaping with diamond grinder and a ring saw and then polished by additional firing in the kiln.
FK: You seem to be quite successful selling on etsy, even though there’s a lot of jewelry competition. Do you have any secrets to offer for your success?
I know there is a lot of advice floating out there specific to Etsy – learn to take great photos, update your shop often, renew items if you can’t list new things, etc. - all advice that I’ve taken to heart and done myself.
I also have a secret support group – my local Etsy street team - which has been a fantastic resource for advice and expertise!
If I’m home, my rest place is usually vegetating in front of the TV, catching up on some favorite shows. If people are dancing, I’m watching it. Away from home, any time I can get out in nature and enjoy a hike or a bike ride and the beautiful greenery the Pacific NW has to offer, I’m in heaven.
FK: What part of being an artist is the most gratifying to you and what is hardest for you?
The most gratifying is sharing the love of glass. Either by seeing someone’s face light up when they find a piece that makes them so happy – or by teaching people how to create their own.
The hardest for me is the isolation of working in my private studio - I find myself missing the camaraderie of co-workers. By teaching at Pratt Fine Art Center and being involved in a community like EtsyRAIN, I’m finding ways to alleviate that without the isolation driving me back into biotech.
FK: What activities do you enjoy when you’re not being an artist?
I spend most of my time drinking coffee. (Just kidding!)
I love getting outside – walking, hiking and biking – especially in new places. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is explore by walking and figuring out their public transport. If I can get around without a car – that makes for the perfect adventure.
And I’ve rarely turned down seeing a movie in the theater. Even if it’s bad – I enjoy the big screen and popcorn.
FK: Sounds good to me! Marja, I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting and getting to know more about you. Now tell us what your giveaway is going to be for some lucky winner.
I am giving away a $20 gift card, which will be good towards any purchase online or in person at any show.
FK: That’s wonderful! Now let me tell everyone how they can win.
You will have several chances to be entered into the random drawing. Each one must be entered as a separate comment.
First entry: Visit Marja's shop, come back here, and enter a comment about your favorite piece.
Second entry: Enter a comment if you signed up to follow Marja's Facebook page (or comment if you already follow).
Third entry: Enter a comment that you signed up as Marja's friend on Twitter.
Fourth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my blog (or comment that you already follow). (See column at right to sign up.)
Fifth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up as my fan on Facebook.
That's FIVE chances to enter for the random drawing!!! I will use random number generator to pick a winner after 12 noon EDT on
THURSDAY, JULY 29.