Mankind has always had a fascination with fire. It's power and flame beckon like a seductive dancer. Fire's hypnotic effects captured the heart and mind of this Pioneer glass artist Vickie Lee. The renowned glass artist, known for her clown characters and Christmas ornaments has been entranced by fire and glass for 42 years.
It was on a holiday in the summer of 1971 that changed her life forever. On vacation at Disneyland she observed a glassblowing demonstration. Enchanted by the art's creativity, "I turned and said, I'm going to do that". Within six months she was taking her first lesson from the German master glass artist Gerhard Rossbach. After her 10th lesson, Vickie apprenticed with Rossbach for several months, before trying it on her own. Vickie's business grew, incorporating booths in several Bay Area malls. Life was good, and she found herself learning many new things including martial arts, while building a growing glass business in the Bay Area, until her life was disrupted in 1982. That's when her life and business took a dramatic change. "I was bounced into supporting a 12 year old child by myself." she said. Vickie was forced into the wholesale business to make a living for the both of them. It was also at this time that she first designed the pieces which were to later bring her national recognition, her clown collection. These whimsical and colorful clowns were sold from Hawaii to New York to Guam under the trade name Glass by Vickie.
In 1994 Vickie took her torch, tanks, and her talent to Las Vegas, where she was offered a contract as the resident glassblower for the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, creating her clowns exclusively for the Crystal Wizard store and demonstrating her craft daily for the throngs of casino guests. While in Las Vegas she also developed an exclusive line of glass dolphins for the Mirage Resorts Hotel as well as a gift line for the Crystal Palace at the Bally's Casino & Hotel.
Her world came crashing down, one fateful morning in 1996, when a motorist pulled out of a driveway in front of her car. The following collision was unavoidable. Vickie's ankle was injured, and the muscles in her back were damaged, the same muscles she would need to create the $10,000 worth of orders waiting in her studio. The orders were never filled. Suffering from pain and frustration, Vickie decided to move her business to a mall in N. California. "It was a chance to come home." she said. "I wanted to start a business where I could live and enjoy family and friends." So she opened an art glass and crystal store, the Glasart Galleria, in a Northern California mall.
The mall Galleria was closed in 1998 and Vickie Lee moved back to Pioneer, CA, where she owned a mountain studio/retreat and embarked on recreating her clown line, and re-establishing herself with former wholesale customers.
But in 2000, Vickie was in a head on collision on the highway returning to her mountain home one night. Once again her injuries affected her stamina needed to create her glass clown sculptures and she found herself thinking of quitting glass after decades of doing what she loved. As fate would have it, while attending her first bead show in 2002, she came upon Leah Fairbanks booth and quickly realized that beads weren't just little round balls of glass, but miniature works of art skillfully designed, and she knew she wanted to try it. Two months after seeing Leah's beads, Vickie purchased her first pack of soft glass and bead making tools and in 2003 began her quest to conquer yet another new art form.
"I feel as though at this point in my life, I've come full circle, knowing what I want in life." "I also hope that this new awareness is reflected in my work." Vickie says she has many ideas for her lampwork beads and art glass jewelry, and a new unique glass gift line already on the drawing board. She also plans to learn Tai Chi and Yoga.
The studio is nestled in the Sierra Foothills where Vickie's unique lampwork beads are created for a select group of retailers as well as here online for all the world to see and purchase. "I love what I do", Vickie added. "That's the key. After 36 years, there's still always something new". "From my loyal customers, I draw encouragement and inspiration. It makes it worth getting up in the morning."