ARTIST INTERVIEW: Debbie Bean

Debbie Bean uses glass as a constant medium of exploration. She works in traditional leadwork and copper foiling as well as warm glass and mosaics to create her dynamic line of decorative objects and functional home goods. Geometric architectural elements influence her designs resulting in colorful and unique handmade pieces. Her work is the embodiment of functional art, meant to be organic in nature and not perfect factory reproductions. We spoke to Debbie about her creative journey.
 
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get where you are?
Absolutely. I walked away from a career I didn’t love to pursue this full time. My husband was and continues to be my biggest advocate, so I made a budget, cut down on a lot of our expenses and got to work. It was insanely stressful in the beginning because I wasn’t making any money, but I felt I owed it to myself to see if I could do this. I didn’t want to wake up one morning, wondering where my life went. I am sometimes still in awe of how quickly my business took off. I knew I could keep doing this at the first EPCF I did in December 2015. The support I felt from Rachel and Bea gave me the little added confidence I needed and the reaction from everyone that came to the fair proved to me that there was a tangible interest in what I was doing and to keep at it. I am forever grateful for everything the EPCF has done for my career and I am always so honored to return to it!
 
What are you artistic goals for the future? Next week, or next year, or 20 years from now?
I have some really exciting projects lined up for the end of the year. I did a 9 foot installation in early 2015 and I am excited to have some projects in the works to do some more large scale pieces. I also tested out a line of pillows to see what would happen if I transformed my stained glass designs into textiles and I had an amazing response. I am currently working on expanding that line in the future.
 
Do you have a daily working routine? What is it like?
I’m usually up by 6am. Or more precisely, I’m usually woken up by our two boy cats that insist on being fed by then. I spend my mornings feeding our 4 animals and making my morning tea. Once everyone is fed, I sit in front of my laptop for the next few hours taking care of emails and any work I need to do on the computer. Some mornings I’m out the door before 8 to go for a hike with a neighbor, otherwise I make my husband’s coffee and then I’m in my studio until lunchtime. I usually spend my lunch break multitasking by answering emails, letting the dog out and whatever chores I can sneak in before I head back into the studio. If I need glass I’ll go to my glass shop for supplies and then head back into the studio until 6 if I have yoga that night and later if I’m in for the evening. My husband works late, so I usually work until 8ish to make dinner and then spend a few hours catching up on any work I might have missed.
 
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How does practicing your art or craft impact your life or way of thinking?
I have to constantly think critically about what I am doing. It’s a lot of technical work but it’s also about problem solving which I enjoy. How can I make this better? How can I streamline what I am doing?

Running my own business is stressful and challenging because at the end of the day everything is my responsibility, even if I have an assistant helping me. So it forces me to be mindful about how I interact with people, not just at work but in my personal life and I try to always see my part in situations and how I can do better. So my approach to my business is aligned with how I approach my life and I’m grateful for that.
 
How do you believe your craft has the power to influence the world outside of the artistic community? Is art important in our current moment of conflict and upheaval?
Art has always been a driving force in my life. I believe it’s a universal language that connects everyone. I feel it deeply with stained glass because I grew up seeing it at the Jewish temples I would go to, but I would walk into any other religious building and see it there too. That’s powerful to me. It’s a way that people choose to express themselves that can be found all over the world and in multiple contexts. There is an immediacy with the medium that speaks to people and a long history with the craft itself that people connect with. I think creating work that people find joy in is a real privilege especially now when it’s easy to get lost in negativity.
 
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Did you have any artists in your family, mentors, or other important creative influences?
I do! Both sides of my family are Eastern European Jewish immigrants and a lot of them were musicians, but they all had to put down their instruments to support their families. I used to think that you had to put aside that creative part of yourself to work a 9-5 job because that’s what they did until it became clear that they sacrificed so that I wouldn’t have to. Every day I walk into my studio it is because of them and it’s why I never mind the long hours I work. I am so fortunate that I get to do this.
 
What do you hope to share with those who purchase your art and bring it intimately into their lives?
That’s simple. I hope my work bring people joy.
 
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