By Katy Macek | Photographed by Hillary Schave and Shanna Wolf
Stepping into Barbara Westfall’s Mount Horeb studio, inspiration radiates from the sunlight streaming through the large, open windows right along to the colorful glass artwork adorning the walls.
It’s hard not to feel good, which Westfall says is important for creating her custom- designed fused glass art, a passion she embraced full-time in the early 2010s. Her work features fused glass occasionally mixed with other objects.
She does commissioned pieces, but says her best work usually starts with experimenting with color and melting, or perhaps an idea or drawing from one of the many sketchbooks scattered across her work tables.
A large kiln sits along one wall, while the middle of the room holds a series of tables covered in her papers and current projects. The space connects to a public gallery that features her finished pieces.
“We saved every penny to build this studio. It was an old farmhouse,” Westfall says. “My husband and I put in all the hard labor to build this.”
The key ingredients to maximize her work? Sunshine and bright light, good ventilation and a cushioned floor built for standing on all day.
The gallery space has existed since 1993, but the bright studio she’s standing in as she shares her story was built just three years ago to accommodate the kiln where her pieces are fired.
Inspiration is key to her work and, for her, that means collaboration, community and connectivity.
“The best days are the days when I’ve been outside, been interacting with other artists, been with nature or been with my colleagues,” she says. “You cannot do it in isolation. That is not a model that worked for me.”
When others see her work, she hopes they see that inspiration. Her tagline is “art, color and design for optimal living,” and she hopes that’s what purveyors of her work come away with.
“Figure out what the intent of the space is, because the art will enhance that experience,” she says. “I hope they choose and place my work to suit the mood of that room or environment.”
Westfall’s advice in creating a space:
- Be intentional. “If you come into the space and it feels icky, don’t start making art,” she says. “Fix the space first.” Even if it’s small, little touches can make it more creativity-fueling.
- Natural light. If large windows aren’t available, she recommends using natural- light LEDs.
- Connect with others. “Volunteer and be an advocate for the arts,” she says. You never know who you might meet.