Two Tiffin women have turned their friendship into an artistic partnership called Lake Erie Beach Glass. Joy Rose and Kathy Livoti are the featured artists for the 2012 Y-Wives Holiday Extravaganza Saturday at Tiffin YMCA.
About two years ago, Livoti, who has a residence at the lake, had seen another person collecting bits of glass tossed up by the water. He was making them into decorative items and jewelry. Seeing his creations also got Livoti's mind working.
"I walk the beach," Livoti said. "I knew Joy was talented, so I thought she could do this."
Rose set up a studio in her basement, fired up her imagination and went to work. In the time the women have been collaborating, Rose has made 714 pendants and hundreds of charms, earrings and other accessories. She keeps an inventory and numbers each piece. Besides weathered glass, she also uses wood, stones, shells and whatever else "looks interesting."
Sometimes, people bring her stones or other objects they collected on vacation to be incorporated into works of art.
"With some pieces that we couldn't use for pendants because they were too small or too big, we branched out
and started doing the wine glass markers, candle jewelry and book markers. Also, I do some suncatchers." Rose said.
She uses non-tarnish wire in silver, gold, copper or bronze finish to hand-wrap the natural materials. The round tops of bottles have ridges Rose accents with wire. Sometimes, the glass fragments have letters molded into the surface.
No special polish or finish is added. The water, sand and stone scrub the wood and glass pieces.
When the pair first started doing shows, customers asked whether they cut their materials or tumbled them to smooth the edges.
"However she finds the glass, we do not do anything to it. The shape it is or whatever, that's what I work with," Rose said.
"If it's too sharp, I throw it back in the lake and say, 'See you in about five years.' ... It's kind of like recycling things people throw off their boats," Livoti said.
Priced from $16-$27, the pendants have been the most popular items. The cost depends on their size, amount of wire and the time invested.
Rose makes the shanks of the pendants big enough to fit over other chains or cords people may have at home.
Blue and black are the most difficult glass colors to find. Sometimes Rose uses glass glue to attach those bits to add contrast. She has an eye for coordinating colors and shapes.
"I pick out the piece of glass I'm going to do, the wire and the beads. Then I just start wrapping. It just depends how it wraps around the piece. I'm never really sure how it's going to turn out," Rose said.
Livoti's drift wood serves as display racks for the jewelry. Rose also transformed some of it into rustic birdhouses with weathered glass jewels. Like the jewelry, each piece is unique.
The pair tries to keep the prices reasonable yet competitive.
"We tell our customers, no two pieces are alike. No one will ever have one identical to it because of the shapes and the way the designs are," Livoti said.
Rose said she has not taken any specific training to make her glass into art. She has tried a variety of wire to get what works best. The wire is ordered online, but she likes to select the beads in person to get the right sizes and colors.
She buys cording and cuts the leather or other material to the length the customer wants or pairs the pendants with chains or neck wires.
"I try to do some sets with a bracelet and pendant that sort of match, because people want that." Rose said. "We do have some earrings. The earrings are really difficult because it involves finding two pieces of glass that are close enough to be used together."
The pieces need to be a similar size, shape and color and then be wrapped to come out nearly the same. The wearer also can wear them with other jewelry done in the same wire color.
Sometimes, the artists want to keep their creations for their own collections. Rose said she prefers more gold, while Livoti favors silver.
"We don't fight over them," Livoti joked.
Signatures of Seneca County carries samples of Lake Erie Beach Glass for sale, and the women participated in the School of Opportunity craft sale last month. Their booth at Tiffin Art Guild's Masterpiece in the Making won an award during the 2011 show in Tiffin.
A member of TAG, Rose recently retired after 20 years as an educational aide for Tiffin City Schools. Livoti
is a teacher's aide at the Opportunity Center.
Livoti has been known to comb the beach for materials at all times of the year.
"I've climbed on rocks; I've slid down banks," Livoti said.
"She enjoys walking the beach and finding all the pieces, and I enjoy sitting and wrapping. It's fun to pick out the different pieces and imagine what it might look like," Rose said.