Artist Carlyn Ray found her passion in creating colorful art out of glass
Ray likes having as many pieces of her glass artwork on display in her Irving Boulevard showroom as possible. The problem is, she’s just about sold out, despite the long hours she works every day with three assistants in her Design District studio.
A former student of glass master Dale Chihuly, Ray set up shop in the Design District in 2013. Since then she’s been using her talent to combine a number of her passions.
Ray loves working with at-risk kids. So she’s bringing to her studio the girls who permanently reside at Jonathan’s Place because the foster system has failed them. She’s working with them to create their own bowls, screens and eventually, well, who knows what.
Shaping molten glass taken out of her more-than-2,000-degree-hot kilns into woks of art certainly builds confidence these girls have never had before.
Ray enjoys when groups come to her workshop for company team-building exercises or children’s birthday parties (available for kids ages six and up). The cost starts at $50 per person depending on how complicated a piece each person will create.
Commissioned pieces for homes are Ray’s second market. She said often customers come in with a fabric or rug from the room the glass art will live in so she can suggest colors. Sometimes she visits the home to get a better feeling for scale as well as color.
Often, if she’s going to create something like a bowl for the customer, Ray said she will create two or three pieces. Each one will turn out a little differently, even when she uses the same colors and same amount of glass. This method, Ray said, let’s her give her clients offer a choice.
“What doesn’t sell, goes on the shelf,” she said.
Next, Ray uses her glass to create an environment on a larger scale. She created a chandelier that will be on display at NorthPark Center in June. And, she said, she would like to create large scale pieces for display in an airport or hospital.
One piece in her studio this week is one of her signature glass weavings. In this piece, she has welded together tubes of glass that will be installed over the client’s window, providing privacy after a next-door neighbor built their home close to the client’s house, with windows facing the client’s windows. Ray’s woven glass art will allow light into the room while still providing the privacy the homeowner needs.
Before coming home to Dallas to create her studio, Ray apprenticed with Chihuly for two years. She then had the opportunity to work at the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York and before sailing around the world on a cruise ship where she entertained travelers with her glass-blowing skills.
While she makes working with glass look easy, creating her studio in the 3,000-square-foot former warehouse of a welding company wasn’t.
“I still had to find, purchase, and set up all the equipment, gas lines, and obtain all necessary permits,” she said. That included transporting and installing a $50,000 furnace that she found in California for half the price. The furnace heats four kilns.
Ray buys glass 6,000 pounds of glass at a time, which comes in 50-pound bags from which she melts and scoops.
Then there’s her astronomical insurance costs and gas that costs her about $1,000 a month, even at today’s low price. But the amazing results were worth the effort.
Ray’s work can be seen at her studio, Carlyn Ray Glassworks, 1820 Irving Blvd. She will also have an installation at a show from 6-10 p.m. on May 21 at the Lawley Art Group Gallery, 1507 Dragon St. and her chandelier can be seen at NorthPark Center in June.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 22, 2016.