Slidell artist uses glassblowing to breathe life into art
SLIDELL, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana summers are chilly compared to Solange Ledwith’s North Shore studio. The blast-furnace inside is set to 2,200 degrees. It has to be to keep the goo she works with pliable.
“When it’s hot, it’s alive. It’s moving.” Ledwith said, fishing an orange glob from the furnace with a long, metal tube. “It’s got personality.”
The glob sags like a giant, glowing marshmallow on the end of Ledwith’s pipe. She rushes to a steel table to pat the marshmallow in different colors of crushed glass. Then she rolls it smooth before twisting it back into the furnace.
For Ledwith, glass, and the process of sculpting it, is a way of prodding the mysteries of life. “For me, understanding material helps me understand more about life.” she said. “You’re really not controlling it; you’re building a relationship.”
She’s spent the last 20 years building a relationship with molten glass -- tinting tiny droplets and breathing life into art in her Slidell studio. “There’s something about working with your hands,” Ledwith said, “Creating something you know -- a blob and making something beautiful out of it. There’s a lot of magic in that.”
Her work explores the wonders of life: a little whimsy in a custom chandelier, elegance in a one-of-a-kind champagne glass, harmony in a series she calls “Balance.” “What you’ve got here is not two bodies,” she said of the colorful ball-within-a-ball sculptures. “You’ve got four, and they’re all wanting to do something different.”
Ledwith has even found a way to bring beauty into death. “People bring in their loved-one’s ashes,” she said. “Just a little bit -- and we incorporate it into a sculpture. So now they have this beautiful piece of glass — piece of artwork — with their loved ones a part of it.”
Her latest creation consists of 352 glass camellia flowers for a sculpture she’s building with local welder, Jamie Gomez.
The flowers can be bought and engraved with a dedication to family or friends. The sculpture will be installed at the traffic circle on Brownswitch Rd. near Robert Rd.
She also passes down this 2,000-year-old art from her Swamp Girl Glass studio. One-on-one sessions start at $45, and the students always leave with art they created. “They do the work,” Ledwith said. “I’m here to make sure they succeed.”
Ledwith uses the time in her studio to drift away from life’s worries. “Every day there’s a question,” she said. “I basically shut my brain off and let my hands do the work.”
It’s her way of understanding life’s mysteries. “There’s a lot of mystery in this world,” she said, “and the mystery is there because there are a lot of things we don’t understand, but when you start to pick things apart, the magic goes away, and everything clicks. Then, there’s more mystery beyond that.”
And her art gives us something to ponder as we search for the beauty in our own lives.
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