Local artist fuses discarded glass with modern jewelry
By CG Lifestyles & People Editor Sarah DeCarlo
Amanda Buchanan, local business owner and founder of Gemelli Contemporary Crafts, fuses glass to form a variety of decorative items. But there is an aspect of Buchanan’s work that sets her apart from other Athens artisans: she incorporates recycled glass into some of her pieces.
Buchanan discovered her love for fusing glass to create, as her business card states, “adornment for body and home” in the early 1990s. The majority of Buchanan’s art is made using factory-produced sheets of glass, which she shapes herself in her “bath-tub size” kiln. But a few years ago she met Christie, a former employee of glassblower Henry Levine, who opened up a new set of materials for Buchanan’s handmade jewelry.
“I was at a show in the Dairy Barn, and there was this woman there selling soaps that she made,” Buchanan recalled. “And she said, ‘Oh, I know this glassblower, I used to work for him, and I happen to know that he can’t recycle or reuse anything that he makes.’”
Henry Levine, the glassblower Christie mentioned, creates larger pieces than Buchanan. Therefore, there is a greater chance for glass to fall off of his tools and into the kiln, rendering this glass unusable and forcing Levine to throw it away. Christie began collecting these leftover scraps and giving them to Buchanan, who quickly learned that she could not simply incorporate these into her regular pieces.
“Every time somebody makes glass, it’s going to have a little bit more of this, a little bit more of that,” she explained. “And when it’s formulated, it comes out with a Coefficient of Expansion – COE.”
Different types of glass all have different COEs, from window glass at 82 to lampworking glass at 104. “I work in a COE of 90,” Buchanan said. “I figured I couldn’t really mix [Henry’s] in with the glass I was already using, so what could I do with it?” She soon began experimenting with the glass, flattening and reshaping it until she achieved a good balance.
“The first couple of times I kind of burned it,” Buchanan remembered. “They got a little too hot. But I just started playing with the temperatures until I could get a piece of glass that I could then shape, and I started cutting it up and making jewelry out of it.”
In addition to learning how to reshape the glass, Buchanan also found that some pieces were better left alone. She began turning aspects of Levine’s broken art, such as pitcher spouts, into unique necklaces and earrings that opened her business up to a new clientele.
“I definitely have customers who prefer it because it’s not as shiny and glitzy,” Buchanan said of her recycled pieces. “There are more earth tones to it.”
Buchanan has always tried to run her business in a sustainable manner by not letting materials go to waste.
“I try to recycle or reuse almost everything,” Buchanan said. “If something comes out…looking really funky, I’ll take those and I’ll make hairclips out of them. If a pendant just doesn’t look right or doesn’t sell, I’ll make a magnet out of it.”
Salvaging Levine’s discarded glass has helped Buchanan expand her eco-friendly business practices while adding new and interesting artwork to her collections. Although she has not worked with this recycled glass recently, she still has several pieces for sale and said she hopes to have more soon.
“The thing I like about Henry’s work is it lends itself to more unique pieces than in my standard line,” Buchanan said. “He has such beautiful patterns all over his glass, and no one speck is the same as the other.”
Buchanan’s jewelry ranges from $18 for craft-metal pendants to $40 for sterling silver earrings. Her work can be purchased directly through her or at one of the following local stores: The Dairy Barn Gift Shop, Hyacinth Bean Florist, Mountain Laurel Gifts, Court Street Collection, Starbrick Gallery and Jewelry by Design. She also attends different shows throughout the year, including the Arts Market every third Saturday on State Street.
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