21Country: Duo behind Sol Eye Glass share passion for same medium, while practicing different styles
Greg Duncan and Emily Simpson pushing themselves to create stunning glass art
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - For several hours a day, you’ll find Greg Duncan and Emily Simpson working together, separately in their garage turned glass-making studio. The duo dedicated a good portion of their Fort Wayne home to their hobby turned business: Sol Eye Glass. Each has a partitioned section of the space, customized to their specific style of art.
“I started as just, playing around in high school many years ago,” Duncan said. “Emily and I went to a class here in town with glass blowing, and I said, ‘you know, I remember doing this, and I really like it!’ That was 8 years ago… 10 years ago?”
“He was hooked,” Simpson added.
Duncan’s work is usually very small and intricate. Using a torch, he creates glass marbles which appear to house flowers inside, to dozens of styles of earrings and beads. His latest work, includes tiny plants in flower pots. “I use little threads of glass that are about 1/6000th of an inch in diameter, for putting whiskers on cats,” he explained. “I’ve got to have pretty steady hands to do that. Some days it’s not there.” But the medium has been more freeing than not, from his former career. “Being an engineer takes a particular mindset, and a particular set of rules for many things,” he continued. “What I’m finding is that this art allows me to release some of that, and be more of an artist than I have in the past many years that I’ve been working.”
Simpson on the other hand, describes herself as a glass fuser. “I use sheet glass — I basically cut it up and put it back together again and make new designs,” she told us. “In some ways it’s similar to quilting.” She too worked with glass in her youth, but began taking it seriously as an artist alongside Duncan. “I do a lot of landscapes, and people will often ask me if they are painted,” she said. “And always, always I say — you do not want me to paint anything for you! I am not a painter. I am not a drawing type artist. A lot of my landscapes are done with glass powder.”
“It can look painted in a way, but they’re not — it’s all glass,” she emphasized. “All of our products, everything we show is all glass.”
Simpson’s pieces often incorporate, or have a theme within nature. Several particular works hanging in her studio, once included dried leaves baked in the kiln and imprinted on the glass. But working with glass, can be rather unpredictable. “It’s just a given that today it works, and tomorrow it doesn’t, and you don’t know why” Simpson shared. “That’s why I always get excited opening the kiln because I want to see what’s in there. I want to see if it worked and see what the colors look like now — because the colors change with the heat. There’s always an element of unknown with glass.”
Though both actively and frequently work with glass, they also spend their free time learning more about it — both from others, and each other. “We talk about glass most of the day it seems like,” Duncan said. Most artists however, don’t have to worry about injury when they show up to work. Duncan and Simpson say, no one is allowed in their studio without shoes. “It’s an occupational hazard. We own stock in bandaid, and there’s always a pile of bandaids here,” Simpson joked. “Yes, you cut yourself, but we’ve never had any serious incidents.”
You’ll often find Sol Eye Glass at the Fort Wayne Farmer’s Market. There, you can buy Duncan’s jewelry, or Simpson’s art pieces. They’ll also be participating in the 2022 Falling for Art, Artists’ Studio Tour later this month, where you can watch them work. “It’s wonderful to have a glass partner so that we can bounce ideas off each other,” Simpson said. “You hope that what you’ve made has some artistic value to it and someone else will see and appreciate that too.”
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