This month we visited Lisa Stimpson in her waterfront Brooklyn studio overlooking the Statue of Liberty for a conversation around her origins as a verre églomisé artisan as well as a peek into her creative process.
Lisa, will you tell everyone a little bit about how you came to specialize in verre églomisé? I was living on Martha's Vineyard designing Summer and resort wear with a partner for our shop and others around the country. One of my contributions to the partnership was fabric design—hand painted at first and eventually silkscreened. When the business folded I moved to New York to work with a decorative painter I had met on the island. I learned the technique of verre églomisé on the job and after a while I thought "Oh, I kind of like this!" [laughs]. It just appealed to me—the beauty of it as well as the history of the ancient technique, and I broke away to start my own business.
We're interested to know more about your creative process when producing a piece for, say, a residence or hotel. What goes through your mind when you start to conceptualize what a project can become? There's a range of what's asked of me when a project is presented, and it can be from, "Here is this picture. Enlarge it and make forty-five of them," where they are very specific about what they want, and all I do is adapt sizes or repeat the pattern and make adjustments. Or, on the other side, when, [laughs] a designer said to me, "Lisa, I want you to tell the story." And that was it! That was the only direction I got. I love it—the research involved, everything. I basically curated a collection of beautiful images and drew from them. What part of the design process would you say that you gravitate towards the most? I think the very beginning. I mean, I like all of it, but especially the beginning when the seed is there, the "Ok, this is what we want." I do samples and it sort of goes back and forth, I send them drawings, and then I am honing it to what it is they want to see. I am carrying out their vision with this particular art form.
How about with other projects, where do you get inspiration from and how do you incorporate that into your repertoire?
Well, I believe it's a question of being open to something—receptive to an idea. I have a history with fabrics, so I am always drawn to that, but I am working with glass. I saw a friend's hand-dyed silk fabrics and thought "Oh, let's try that to incorporate into a design with glass]" and then it became something I wouldn't have expected, the way it looks with a mirror back [laminating the silks between glass and adding a mirror backing]. Some of them looked like marble, and others resembled tortoise shell.
Lastly, what has kept you drawn to the art of verre églomisé for almost thirty years?
I travel a lot with it, and I love that I can do my work and support myself. There's always something different—a different location, a different project, you know, I'm not going into it doing the same thing every day. I especially like challenge of undertaking large projects and ones that tend to be more creative. I love that I am doing this very old technique [verre églomisé] with a new twist—bringing a new look to it.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: LAURA WHEATLEY