Visual Arts

Feature Artist: Deb Williams

The Smiths. Deb Williams, artist

The Smiths

By Gina Malone

Artists often mention the healing properties of their art—the ones they intentionally want viewers of the pieces to experience or the ones they benefit from themselves as they work through the creation process. Glass artist Deb Williams recognizes both as she creates her cast glass and shattered glass pieces. “My art has certainly been healing for me,” she says. “I can look back at my work and see how it has evolved over the years, how the energy of the work has changed just as I have evolved personally.”

Thirty years ago, Deb says, she began a spiritual quest. “I laugh when I say that because it is such a clichéd ‘70s phrase. I think this search is true for many of us. We search to find purpose and meaning in our existence.” Her study involved many philosophies and practices, including Native American, Eastern, Shamanism and healing modalities. “And here is what it all comes back to:” she says, “energy. As we walk through our daily lives, we are interacting with the world on a certain energetic level. We are moving, changing, hurting, healing.”

Valkyrie

Valkyrie

In her work with shattered glass, she sees the symbolism of broken things made whole again. The process involves using shards of broken glass. “Similar to cast glass, I am making molds to create a variety of shapes such as the life-sized horse head or life- sized body forms that I created for my recent solo show,” Deb says. “Thousands of pieces of broken glass are laid meticulously in that mold and then heated in a kiln just enough to fuse the pieces back together, but not so that we lose the vision of all the broken pieces. The process is meditative and metaphorical. I am taking something that is whole, applying stress and breaking it into ‘a million little pieces’. Those pieces are then put back together in a different way. Whole becomes broken, and broken becomes healed. This parallels many of our life paths, and certainly my own.”

Her piece A Work in Progress is an example. A large, shattered glass heart, it has a big crack in it, Deb says. “Almost a gash. That crack is stitched back together and tied up with a bow. I created this when I was feeling particularly vulnerable, broken in fact. There was a healing process that happened while I worked on that piece.”

She sees a visceral response in people to her shattered glass pieces. “I like to think it taps into a well of healing on some deep level, showing that we can put ourselves back together,” she says. “We can become strong and whole again.”

Her fascination with glass dates back to her childhood in Wyoming when she would line up colored bottles on a fence, putting red in front of green, or blue in front of yellow and noticing the color shifts in the light. “This was my first experience in mixing colors,” she says, “and maybe even more importantly, realizing that different colors hold and evoke different feelings and energy.”

Deb Williams

Deb Williams

Later in life, she would study interior design. “Again, my focus was on energy,” she says, “and how we feel and interact within a particular space. When I first started working with glass, I just wanted to make pretty things. Now, I design pieces that evoke a response or cause a certain feeling when they are viewed. My goal is to create pieces that make people feel something, whatever that may be, even on a subconscious level, every time they are viewed.”

This year, she is creating a new body of work inspired by nature, particularly animals. Looking back over her creations, she sees the evolution of her work and of herself. “I am a different person than I was when I started working in glass 16 years ago,” she says. “And certainly different than 30 years ago when I began my ‘quest.’ I feel strong, clearer, more ‘put together,’ shall I say. The new work feels like a celebration of connection, of strength, and, of course, energy.”

Find Deb Williams’ work at Mark Bettis Studio and Gallery in Asheville’s River Arts District and at Lexington Glassworks in downtown Asheville. To learn more, visit DebWilliamsDesigns.com.

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