Gardens of Glass: Leah Fairbanks

Gate to Pasture at Penland

I had the privilege of being the studio assistant for Penland School of Crafts flameworking studio in Leah Fairbank’s session this summer 2010.  Penland is an amazing place to create and learn with most studios open 24 hours a day and much free flowing information sharing across the disciplines.  It is not unheard of to find someone from the wood working shop or the ceramics studio visiting the glass studio to make something in glass to complete their project for the session.  This Session was a very short, one week session which created an intense working environment I began to call “Art Boot Camp.”  The pressure to learn new techniques and to create and complete projects was palpable throughout the studios and that stress level was instrumental in many beautiful pieces coming to life.

Pink and Green Gladiolus, Pink Sapphire, Amethyst, Peridot, 18k Gold Bezel Set

Leah Fairbanks’s work is reminiscent of  of Asian floral urns and vases which she creates in miniature on glass beads.  Her designs are multilayered, complex and very difficult to execute due to the small scale of her pieces.

From her biography:

“To achieve a life-like rendering of flowers and leaves, Leah frequently mixes her own blends of frit and enamel powders to personalize her glass beads. Recurrent motifs of composition include wheat, iris, lavender and berries. Her Tapestry series of autumn leaves highlights her use of mixed metals, while The Monet series paints intricate bouquets of color. Bead & Button honored Ms. Fairbanks’ distinguishing floral style with a commission to design their first commemorative lampworked glass bead for the year 2000. In her most recent work, Leah collaborates with her husband Derek Lusk of Opal Illusions. She begins by custom blending her glass to simulate semiprecious stones. Derek then sets gemstones such as ruby, sapphire, or topaz into each finished bead using an 18K bezel. These beads are often finished with faceted detail to reveal a truly elegant silhouette.”

Click here to view or purchase Leah’s Gardens of Glass Beads by visiting her website.


Leah Fairbanks demonstrating a new technique at Penland


In this summer session at Penland, Leah shared many techniques for layering glass, creating custom color blends for stringers, twisted cane and murrini and creating numerous beads including aquarium style beads and floral designs.



Follow this blog for more about the magical Penland, our friends the Ritters in the Hot Shop next to us, and cross studio collaborations   . . .


~ by ginkgoglass on November 9, 2010.

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