Inspired by the colors of the sea, stone, forest and sky, Alison Thibault has combined sheets of glass to form stunning jewelry for more than 20 years. Using dichroic glass, Thibault has created hundreds of color combinations inspired by Vinalhaven.
Generally, dichroic glass has two very distinct colors: transmitted and reflected. Transmitted color is the color we see when we gaze through a clear piece of dichroic glass. Reflected color is the color we see in a clear or opaque piece of dichroic glass when light bounces off of the surface of the glass. It is in the rich combinations that her jewelry becomes vibrant and gorgeous.
Through her one-woman business WindHorse Arts in Vinalhaven, Thibault attracts customers from near and far and connects them to the Maine island. Thibault runs the retail shop while simultaneously working in her studio at the rear of the space. Living in a small, island community, the open shop invites customers and community members alike. Her new styles and colors are also available for purchase at Archipelago in Rockland.
Thibault came to making fused glass jewelry rather serendipitously. Over 20 years ago, an earring gifted from her mother went missing and Thibault was faced with a choice: buy a new pair or try and replicate the missing earring. Thibault chose the latter, setting off the chain of events which led to her taking on jewelry making full-time.
“Inspired to make a match for the remaining favorite earring, I learned to fuse glass at a moment when I was seeking a new way to live and work I wouldn’t want to retire from,” Thibault said. “When people started asking to buy the jewelry right off my body, I listened.”
Learning how to make fused-glass jewelry at the turn of the millennia was challenging. Without the digital wealth of knowledge now available at our fingertips, Thibault largely learned through books and experimentation. Some of those experiments included learning how to keep the cut glass stacked neatly as it is placed in the kiln, what color and texture combinations work or do not, and a variety of kiln successes and mishaps. A systems person, Thibault started making earrings with either black or clear backgrounds.
Her earrings are three layers, and with three layers of assorted colors and qualities of glass — smooth, textured, dichromatic, etc. — the possibilities are endless. As her color combinations grow, so does her record-keeping. Each glass color receives a number, so that the final fused glass combination has a unique number of its own, allowing Thibault to recreate color and texture combinations by knowing which glass was the bottom, middle and top layers.
With endless combinations, Thibault experiments with new ones each year, while keeping a steady supply of earrings, pendants and bracelets in her core collection of colors. The core of her creation is not about the color, however, but the energetics and interaction of light through glass.
Thibault is a strong advocate for finding the path that feeds you, a path where you can wake up every day and delight in your work. She shares that there hasn’t been a single day is the past 20 years where she’s woken up and bemoaned going to work. That isn’t to say the work has been easy, especially through the pandemic, however, the fulfillment is worth the trials along the way.