Shirley Bishop walked into the office at her Portland interior design job last September and received the shock of her life.“After 30 years in the industry, I was laid off. Never thought it would happen to me. It was a total shock.”
Reeling, she began packing up her work area.
“Thankfully, they let me come back in to finish taking my files off the computer,” she said.
Sometimes, it takes a life-altering event to make you realize what you really want.
Bishop used her free time to focus on her fledging business, Studio 13 GlassArt. She now hosts regular classes in her Washougal studio and experiments with all types of fused glass projects. Bishop also joined Made in Vancouver, a group of 200 artisans.
“I have been having fun networking and getting to know the small business world while looking for a full-time job,” she said. “I have met some fabulous people and artisans in a short period of time.”
She also began a full-time position this week as an independent sales representative for Norman Window Fashions. The job will allow her the flexibility to fire up her kiln in the morning and continue growing her glass business.
“In retrospect, though being laid off was painful, it was a good thing to have that time off from work,” Bishop said. “I was able to re-align my career focus with what I really wanted out of life.”Bishop started Studio 13 GlassArt in July 2013, after taking a glass fusing class the prior December. Working with color and the feeling that comes when natural light filters through glass of all colors and opacities has always been a passion. In the 1980s, she learned how to work with stained glass and did commissioned projects. Then life happened, with marriage, four sons and a busy career.
“After the class, I fell in love with glass all over again,” Bishop said. “Only this time, it was in the form of glass fusing.”
Fusing incorporates all types of glass mediums from sheets to crushed glass to liquid glass.
When she told her husband, John, how much she enjoyed the class, he surprised her with a kiln for Christmas.
“Then I started thinking it would be fun to have my own business,” Bishop said. “I was at a point in my life where I could do that.”
By June, she felt confident enough in her skills to begin selling her work to the public. Bishop has been a vendor during a First Friday event in Camas, as well as Camas Days in July.
She has also shown her work at the Vancouver Women’s Expo, holiday bazaars and has pieces on exhibit at Gresham Art Gallery. She has experimented with all types of fused glass projects, from garden stakes to larger platters to photographs fused into glass.
“I love everything to do with glass,” she said. “I love the shows because I get a chance to talk to people about something that I have a passion for.”
Bishop began offering glass fusing classes in September. Creativity and artistic ability are not required.
“It is easy to teach people when you are passionate, even if they think they are not creative,” she said. “It’s amazing what they can do. So far, I’ve only had one person who didn’t like the result.”
Bishop has a free “re-do” policy for anyone that doesn’t like their work.
“I want everyone to have a good experience,” she said.
On a recent winter day, Ruth Bosckis and Anne Marie Standley of Vancouver appeared to be doing just that.
After Bishop explained safety guidelines, she gave both women a piece of glass to clean.
“This class should be very relaxed, because glass is not very precise,” she said. “This is not a class for perfectionists. You have to let things go. Glass is funny that way.”
Standley described herself as “The most un-artistic person ever.”
“I’ve known Shirley for 12 years and she is awesome, so that’s why I came,” she said. “We’ll have to see how this turns out.”
Bosckis, a personal trainer, remarked on how much she enjoyed the creative outlet the class provided.
“This is something that I have never done before,” she said. “It’s easy to be in exercise mode too often. This is one of those things that just feels good.”