Customers drift in and out of Sihaya Hopkins’ gallery in Blue Hill. Each person remarks on the beauty of the lampwork glass beads that form the foundation of the artist’s delicate, meticulously crafted jewelry.
At Blossom Studio & Gallery, Elegant bracelets, necklaces, earrings and pendants are displayed in different combinations of greens and blues, pinks and purples, yellow and orange. The pieces that will appeal to all tastes from the simple to the extravagant.
“I try to design things people feel like they can wear everyday, and I like to have the versatile range where you can treat it casually, or you can dress it up,” said the Cape Rosier artist who has made glass beads full time for 20 years. “A lot of the feedback from people is that whenever they wear my work, they get compliments.”
First thing in the morning, Hopkins is focused on creating and fabricating in her home studio. Using a propane/oxygen torch with a flame blazing at over 3,000 degrees F, the glass artist melts the end of a quarter-inch wide rod, imported from Italy, until the glass reaches the consistency of molasses. She winds the molten substance around a steel rod that has a clay slip to prevent the glass from sticking to the metal. Then she adds layers to the bead and creates different designs.
“It’s very ambidextrous because everything needs to be in continuous motion, and it’s all being put in and out of the flame,” she said.
Once the completed bead cools to 1,000 degrees, she places it in a kiln where it will further drop to room temperature.
After a morning of crafting, Hopkins heads to Blue Hill to open her Main Street gallery. She brings the beads she made the day before and assembles jewelry and tends to customers.
“I hold myself to a very high standard that all my work is my own designs, and we sink or swim on them, and I get to enjoy all of my experience,” the glass artist said.
At day’s end, Hopkins eyes closely her artful displays and thinks of what she’ll need to make next to replenish her stock.
“That’s one of my favorite things about what I do,” she reflected. “The almost end result of the body of work on display. The end result for me is when the customer comes in, and I help them find something that they’re going to go home and be really happy about.”
Along with her glass beads, Hopkins’ youngest sister Kipp’s artwork hangs in the gallery. The watercolors are drawn from characters and scenes from literature and reimagined with cats. The seven-volume Harry Potter series inspired a series of paintings featuring “Furry Potter.” The play on Harry Potter is popular among visitors.
Hopkins grew up on an island in Alaska’s Prince William Sound with her parents and three younger sisters. The Hopkins raised oysters. While living on the island, the family would only venture off and travel to Anchorage twice a year.
One year, on a visit to San Francisco, Hopkins’ aunt taught her how to knot pearl necklaces. Before returning home, the budding artist bought a plethora of pearls in Chinatown. She then turned them into necklaces and sold them to an upscale clothing boutique and jewelry store back in mainland Alaska.
After her family moved to Maine when she was 19, the Alaskan took a few metal-smithing classes and a glasswork class. She loved the spectrum of color working with glass and decided to pursue it further.
Hopkins has now spent 20 years managing her business and mastering her artistry full time.
“It takes seven or eight years to get fairly good at it, and honestly every year I feel like my work is the best it’s ever been,” she related. “Part of that is actually my body getting better at doing the work because it’s something your body has to learn.”
Blossom Studio and Gallery is located at 54 Main St. in Blue Hill. For more info visit www.blossomstudiobeads.com.