I’ve been sharing highlights and behind-the-scenes glimpses of our Playa beach house project over the past month. And while we’ve enjoyed exploring the project and design decisions in a big-picture sense, I really wanted to highlight a small detail of this home that is just so special.
In the last blog, I shared how much time we spent focused on the windows, trying to get the placement just right to maximize the natural light, views, and privacy. And there was this one particular window — on the staircase landing, just outside the entrance to the main bedroom. It provided much-needed illumination, but just didn’t have a great view. We knew we needed to find something special.
I knew immediately that I wanted fused glass artist Tim Carey to help us with this project. Tim is a local artist here in LA who creates stunning windows and glass artwork for residential and commercial spaces. We met a few years ago when I was invited to tour Judson Studios (where he was working at the time). After seeing some of his glass innovations, I knew I had to file his name away for something in the future.
So when this window in the Playa project gave us pause, I reached out to Tim for some help. And I’m so glad I did! Today, I want to highlight the window he created and share more about his work.
Keep reading to learn more about Tim’s industry-shifting work in fused glass, his dream commission, and his number one piece of advice for young creatives and artists.
A conversation with Los Angeles fused glass artist Tim Carey:
First, talk to me about this window you created for the Playa project.
This project was very different for me. I’m used to doing pieces that are more painterly, with bolder color. But this was calming, more abstract. You and Chelsea didn’t have really specific ideas for me, more inspiration and photos. So I got to play around, which is exactly what fused glass is all about. I really pushed the medium to do something I hadn’t done before. I wanted to showcase the material. And the window fits great in the space, it has a nice feeling. It actually feels more like water than it looks like water. That’s what glass can do when you take advantage of it.
Yes! It totally has this rippled texture of water itself — like the surface of a pond. It’s so beautiful. I’m so curious, how did you get into this medium of fused glass?
I never would have guessed that I’d be doing what I’m doing now. I went to Art Center College of Design here in Pasadena, and I initially wanted to be an animator or something like that, so my background is in painting and drawing.
One day, I stumbled upon this stained glass studio and went into their gallery thinking maybe they’d show my paintings. And somehow I ended up getting a studio tour. It was one of those moments in life where you go — Ok, I’m going in this direction now. And within a week I was working there.
Wow, that’s incredible. So you’re working for Judson — the oldest family-owned stained glass studio in the U.S. Then what?
We competed for this huge project in Kansas City, the Resurrection Window, and won! It was based on a design that I’d done. It was really bright and contemporary and colorful. But...I didn’t actually know how I’d execute it with traditional stained glass. I just decided to go for it with the design, to focus on getting the job. Then, once we landed it, we could figure it out.
In traditional stained glass, you can’t melt different colors of glass directly together because they aren’t chemically compatible. I got frustrated that you have to have a lead line to change the color. So we were trying all of these methods, but none quite achieved what we wanted.
I ended up taking a fused glass workshop with glass artist Narcissus Quagliata and immediately fell in love with that medium. We did the Resurrection window with this really cool combined style using both fused and lead techniques. But I was so amazed — really just blown away — by what glass can do in a kiln. This was kind of coming full circle, back to my fine art painting career. I boxed up all my stained glass stuff and just took off in this new direction of fused glass.
Suddenly it felt like there were so many new options. I just knew I had to commit every day to pushing innovative glasswork. I saw an opportunity here in fine art. I can make this medium something that people aren’t used to seeing, so that’s kind of the roundabout path that got me here. And once I got obsessed with it, I knew it was only a matter of time before I quit my job.
So what ultimately inspired you to create your own fused glass studio here in LA?
You know, after that big project, I just felt like, “I’m 45, it’s now or never. I love this medium, I love what I’ve done, I have some contacts in this world. And I think it’s time for me to step out and try something new.”
I happened to be reading a Ray Bradbury biography at the time, and one of his famous quotes is: “You’ve got to jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.” And it really resonated with me. So now I’ve been at it for 2 years.
And you’ve been doing some teaching. Is that something you always wanted to do?
I honestly never wanted to teach. I’ve always been afraid of it. But every time I get sucked into it and I say yes, I end up having a great experience. It’s exhausting, and I find myself stressed for days, but I’m so aware of what it’s given me, all these amazing opportunities. I’m going to keep doing it if I get invited.
This year has had a lot of canceled trips and fused glass workshops, which is a huge bummer. The classes sell out fast. A lot of people want to learn the techniques. But I’m working on some online possibilities, so that’s pretty exciting.
So what would be your ultimate commission?
I’ve always felt a very strong connection to sports art. As a kid I loved Leroy Neiman. The boxing paintings, with this really splashy color. And when I went to art school they made fun of me because I wasn’t avant garde enough. But I find the beauty in athletics — I don’t care what people say.
My ultimate commission would be a glass piece of Jackie Robinson at Dodger stadium. I’ve got it in my mind: the light comes through it at sunset and it’s alive and dancing with color. People could take pictures in front of it.
I just think there’s a way to really elevate this genre, cause there’s a lot of cheesy sports art, no doubt about it. But I can take what I know — my fine art experience — and merge it with a subject matter that a lot of people love and do something with it that makes people happy. That’s the kind of thing I want to do, in a way that honors the medium and connects you to the spiritual world of athletics.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to young artists?
When it comes to the craft of whatever you’re studying, just make it your own. Stay late, explore and learn from the material. When the shop closes, stick around and do what you want to do. Find that thing that you can really become obsessed with.
I know it’s not easy to go off on your own and start your own business. Talk to people who know you, ask people who’ve done it before. And aim to be happy, not comfortable. I get up every morning and I’m excited every day. I think if you do that, people will respond to it. I’ve found that if you express that passion that you have, people will take a chance on you and your work. Take that leap, and hope the wings grow on the way down.
To stay up to date on Tim’s latest projects and workshops, follow along on Instagram.
Until next time,
P.S. Curious to know more about fused glass? Check out Tim’s process here.