Special thanks to Pirjo Raits of the Sooke News Mirror for this lovely article on Dragonfly Organic Art. Being a part of the thriving arts community of greater Victoria is exciting, and the beauty of the island is a constant inspiration.
The colours of the glass rods in Lori Steel’s studio are mesmerizing. It’s a rainbow of Murano glass in every shade under imaginable. The walls are lined with bins and boxes of beautifully crafted glass beads, each one meticulously made by hand.
Lampwork is a centuries old technique of making beads by melting glass by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements. The flame comes from propane, butane or natural gas, the glass from Italy and the inspiration from Mother Nature.
Ever since the fifth century, artisans have been practicing the art of lampworking. It is different than glass blowing in that torches are used rather than furnaces. It’s a precise and complicated art, gaining popularity for the unique glass beads created by the artist.
Steel likes the reactivity of the glass and the fascinating results when other materials, like silver, is added to the beads. The metals stick to the molten glass and change the surface colour of the beads.
“I just love to make the beads,” said Steel. “I love the whole process of melting the glass.”
Steel has an artist’s heart and she found the inspiration for lampwork from the Sooke Fine Arts Show. She entered three pieces in the show and they sold. That was her impetus to try making her living at creating individual one-of-a-kind glass beads.
“That inspired me to go ‘wow!’ I could actually make a living doing this,” said Steel. “Definitely the Sooke Fine Arts gave me the push.”
Nature with all of its shapes, striations of colour, patterns and symmetry is her inspiration. Her larger beads can mimic rocks and crystals, leaves and seeds. She translates what she sees around her in nature onto the beads. She fashions individual beads, bracelets and earrings.
While at markets she demonstrates her art and chats with people about what she does. People are fascinated by what she does, as attested by the numbers who watch her work. She loves it all.
She hasn’t looked back and is, in fact, looking forward. 2014 was her first year as a full time artist and she is thrilled at the reception to her work. She is not a relative unknown, she spent many years doing stained glass and teaching others in the Metchosin area. She has a studio called Inspiration and she taught people to make mosaic tiles and stained glass. Once she touched glass though, it was all over. Glass beads and the thrill of the flame and what it creates is her love. Courses, workshops and inspiring instructors have taken her to places where she perfected her art. The Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee was where Steel learned many of the techniques and master lampwork instructors such as Corina Tettinger, Andrea Guarino and Holly Cooper brought her to new heights in creativity.
Steel has been in Sooke for 17 years and started Dragonfly Organic Art. She sells at prestigious markets in Vancouver, Calgary, Courtney and Victoria. She will be setting up her booth at Bastion Square in Victoria for the summer months and at Circle Craft, the Filberg Festival and many other markets across Canada later in the year.