Most people, when they think of glass, think of something fragile, breakable.
Not Deeni DeMedeiros.
For DeMedeiros, glass is something precious, luminous, and tough.
DeMedeiros works in dichroic glass, containing precious titanium and quartz crystals, and tempered and annealed at high temperatures.
Not the dichroic glass that swept craft circles about a decade ago, but glass etched and patterned through a photographic process developed by DeMedeiros and her husband Joe, to create unique beads and pendants that shimmer and change color with changes in lighting, in their settings of pure silver.
She didn’t start as a jewellery-maker. Her first introduction to glass was through traditional stained glass, back in 1998.
“I wanted stained glass in my home, and I couldn’t afford it,” DeMedeiros explained - so she decided to make her own.
“I went home, and bought all the equipment, and started to make my own designs.”
DeMedeiros was helped and inspired by her dad, who worked in glass – and other media – and was a kind of Renaissance man, eclectic in his hobbies. “He was really a magic person – everything he did was beautiful,” she said. “He’s the one who said, Believe in yourself and follow your dream, whatever it is.”
He guided DeMedeiros in making her first piece, a small suncatcher that closely followed a standard pattern.
Her second piece? “The next was a sunburst on a cobalt background, a double panel for a transom,” she said – a pattern she created herself.
For a while, she was happy working in stained glass. “I loved it – I loved the results,” DeMedeiros said. “It was hot, sharp, hard work, but I loved the results. But all the time, my husband was saying, Let’s make jewellery, let’s make jewellery.”
After eight years of stained glass and custom work, exhibiting at shows like One-of-a-Kind in Toronto, DeMedeiros agreed.
It was time for a change. Working in glass can be hazardous – the sharp edges, the lead solder, the chemicals. DeMedeiros was open to trying dichroic glass, but only if it was “something really different.”
Working in partnership with her husband, they began experimenting.
“Because we were self-taught, nobody ever said ‘you can’t do that’,” said DeMedeiros. It took two years to develop the photo-etching and annealing process, and learn how to create dichroic ‘jewels.”
“I’m still learning,” said DeMedeiros. “It’s never really stopped – which is why we’re still making it.”
It’s more a labour of love, than a profit-making business. The materials and especially the processes are costly; so is the silver used in her necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
Over the years, DeMedeiros has held a number of jobs, that have helped pay the bills. “I was a professional stylist,” she said. “I worked at Sam the Record Man for quite a few years.” And her husband has had a well-paying job.
“I’m lucky,” she said. Her husband not only a strong support, he is a full partner in Artworx Glass Studio, coming up with new ideas and processes, even studying blacksmithing to be able to contribute another aesthetic to the studio.
“Nobody else is doing what we’re doing,” DeMedeiros said. “I never would have thought of it – it’s him.”
Finding inspiration in Art Nouveau designs, the works of Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris, the natural world, each piece created at Artworx is unique.
“I want to make it different all the time,” DeMedeiros said. “It’s not always easy, but it’s always fun.”
See the dichroic glass and silver jewellery of Deeni DeMedeiros at the BWG PASSION MADE artisans tour, September 21 and 22. Her work will be at the Bradford Library.