I don’t have any illusions that I’m a great writer, but I think that I am a decent storyteller. I’ve often wished that I had other talents: singing, playing an instrument, dancing or doing art. Sadly, I’m rather tone deaf, don’t feel the rhythm and have two left feet. Despite taking art class in middle school I never excelled at any particular medium. That doesn’t mean I’m not creative or that I don’t appreciate those abilities in other folks – quite the contrary. My partner is an artist so I see firsthand the work that folks put into into producing what is often undervalued by the general public.
Although I’m the creator of this blog I love to collaborate with others: so far it’s mostly been vets and other chicken keepers on case studies and health issues. I’m a member of a number of Facebook chicken groups where folks often post their chicken inspired art: painting or drawing, quilt making, feather work, even baking. I’ve reached out to a few of them and asked if they’d like to take part in a series of profiles of creators of chicken art or those who are somehow inspired by chickens in their artistic endeavors. For the most part I haven’t received a reply, so I’m left to assume that maybe they think it’s odd to be approached by a stranger who offers to showcase their work for free, or perhaps they aren’t ready for the spotlight. I was happy when Ester, from Little Glass Studio, took me up on my proposal and appreciated my attempt to promote small-scale artists.
I live on Gabriola, a small island off the west coast of Canada, dubbed ‘The Isle Of The Arts’ and Ester is in The Netherlands so I sent her some questions that would give us some insight into what she does.
Who are you and what do you do?
I live with my loving husband, two naughty cats and four funny chickens in a small town in the Netherlands.
I have always been into creating. Like most creative people, I have used many mediums, like pencil and paint drawing, crochet, knitting, origami, polymer clay and many more.
A few years back, I took on a new hobby: lampworking, and once I discovered glass, that was it. I am all about glass now; I am mesmerized by the way it breaks the light, its transparency, the way it flows when it is liquid and its colors and reactions.
I have a little shop on Etsy, selling my glass work. Mostly, I make beads, jewelry from those beads and little glass chicken figurines.
I am still working my day job as a dental assistant, so I can’t keep my Etsy shop stocked. I am happy my work is appreciated and gets sold, but I would like to have more time to create. I hope that soon I can work full time on my glass adventure.
What motivates you to create?
Working with glass is magic to me, I am just hooked. I think I would have a hard time if I had to stop working with glass. There are always ideas forming in my head as I am working on a bead, ideas for the next bead, next chick… It never stops.
How did you get into glass work?
One day, I discovered online that there was this hobby called lampworking where you could melt glass and make your own beads. I never thought it was possible to melt glass in your home.
I had a lesson with a woman who had her own glass studio where I learned all about the safety requirements and started my own studio soon after.
Can you describe your studio and how you work?
My studio is small, just a room in our house for our hobbies. My equipment includes a propane fired torch, kiln and small vent to extract the fumes. I share the space with my husband where he plays guitar and works on his computer. Usually we’re there together when I’m doing glasswork.
I melt the glass in the flame, and manipulate it with tools and gravity. When the bead or chicken is done, I place it in the hot kiln to anneal, a slow cooling process, that relieves the stress in the glass in order to make it strong and durable. It takes about five hours, so I usually do this overnight.
Glass is available in many colours and from many manufacturers. I use soft soda lime glass, mostly Italian glass that’s made on the isle of Murano, near Venice; also an American glass with the most amazing colours as well as some from Germany and Czechoslovakia. I have to confess, I have a small addiction to collecting colours.
The only tool I use to make the chickens are pliers; you can see the marking it makes when I pinch their tails. I form the body directly onto the copper wire before they go in the kiln. When they’re fired I clean them and bend the wire to make their toes.
How has your practice changed over time?
In the beginning, I was creating from my heart. It was all new and I was following every thought and idea I had.
Then there was this phase where I was looking more at what others were creating. I was eager to learn new techniques and tried to make what they made. I learned a lot, but it was also unfulfilling because I was following other people’s paths, instead of my own. Lately I find myself walking my own path and creating from my own heart.
It’s funny to see that in this phase, I am again making the things from the first phase, from my heart again, but now with more knowledge and learned techniques.
What work is most fulfilling?
Seeing people use my beads in their jewelry designs is wonderful. And pictures I get from people who have bought my little glass chickens. Knowing my work is in different homes all over the world now: USA, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Germany UK, Denmark, Italy and more; it blows me away.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
There are a few collectors of my little chickens. Every time I bring out a new design, they will snatch it up and add to their collection. That is such a compliment! I have had some lovely emails from people enthusiastic about my glass that I will never forget. Those kind words resonate with me and motivate me to keep following my path.
What’s your dream project?
I have to make a rooster. I’ve never made one and find myself procrastinating because developing my little chicks took time, trial and error, and sweat and tears and with a new design I have to start this process over again.
There is no real dream project for me. I would be very happy if I can keep creating beads and chickens that people like. If I can keep my little corner on Etsy and have a small income from my work I’d be grateful.
What was your first experience with chickens?
Growing up, my dad had a coop in our garden and I had a pet chicken called ‘Grijsje’ which means ‘little gray one’ in Dutch. Grijsje was always with me; I took her to the park and went on bike rides with her through our neighborhood. I was known as ‘the girl with the chicken’
Do you have chickens?
I’m now 42 and have chickens in my own backyard. I absolutely love them and love watching them. We have a small backyard, so we can’t keep a big flock, but we have four hens: Cochin bantams, all different plumage and all different personalities.
Peanut and Parel (Pearl) are sisters, Parel is the boss, she is stern, but kind.
Peanut is little and clumsy, she trips and stumbles often. There is nothing wrong with her, she is just enthusiastic and runs without looking.
Then we have two other sisters, Anna and Rose. Anna is like a chili pepper: hot and spicy. She can be unkind if someone is in her way. Rose is the biggest. I am not sure that she is a bantam, but she’s at the bottom in the pecking order, always a little on her own, outside the group. She is soft, sweet and shy, but Zen and content.
How have they impacted your life?
They are such a great addition to our little household. My husband and I both love to sit in our garden and watch them. They are always doing something, there is always something going on.
I love the little sounds they make. We have learned to recognize some of them, like when they see a bird of prey, circling above. One hen makes that warning call and the other three hens and two humans look to the sky to see where the scary bird is.
When I took on lampworking it wasn’t long before I made a chicken from glass, with little copper toes. A friend asked me to make some for her to gift her sister, and that was the start, I have made many chickens since then.
So, now I am known for making these miniature glass chickens. I guess a person doesn’t change much, growing up.
Many thanks to Ester Voogt for sharing her story and photos, used with permission.
If you are an artist, crafter or writer – hobbyist or professional – that incorporates chickens into your work and would like to share it on Bitchin’ Chickens feel free to drop me a line by using the ‘contact’ button on my home page.