Totty’s creativity leads her into glass

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, September 8, 2012

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BLUEBONNETS – Totty shows one of her larger mosaic pieces. She lined up small pieces of glass to create a bluebonnet scene. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

One involves a pair of shears and a comb, the other a kiln or burner and propane and oxygen tanks.

But whether she’s working or immersed in her hobby, you can be sure Myrt Totty of Newark is cutting something.

“I’m either cutting hair or cutting glass,” the beautician of more than 40 years said. “In hairdressing, you have to be artistic to be visual to satisfy your clients’ requests.”

COOKING WITH GAS – Myrt Totty heats a glass rod to make a bead rolled in small bits of colorful glass. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

When she’s not snipping locks at the Hair Hut – which she’s operated in Newark since 1974 – she’s playing in a 16×20 shop behind her house or in kilns in her garage. Totty uses different techniques in an “interest-turned-passion in the past five years” to create stained glass, fused glass, etched glass, jewelry and mosaics.

Her venture with crafting glass may be in its infancy, but an appreciation for some sort of art goes as far back as she can remember.

“I’ve always done some kind of art,” she said. “My mother and grandmother were seamstresses so I saw creativity from an early age. I just found a different outlet.”

That included phases in pottery, ceramics, tie-dye, texture and painting, the latter which “held” her interest for “quite a while.”

But the limitations of painting prompted a search for a bigger challenge.

“Painting was too flat,” she said. “I had to find something different.”

In the course of that search, she rekindled an admiration for an old medium.

“My dad was in the military,” she said. “We lived in Europe, and while there I was exposed to many great works of art. The most impressive ones, the ones I remember most, were the stained glass windows in the cathedrals.”

With that appreciation, she enrolled in a one-day glass art class at Merry Go Round Stained Glass in Fort Worth in 2007. And she was hooked.

“Glass is addicting,” she said. “With glass, there’s no end. You have a three-dimensional medium to work with. When I found glass, I was like an animal in the jungle that had found my tree.”

Totty makes sure her creations are practical. In many instances, she fuses togther recycled wine or beer bottles for a serving platter, or uses molds she crafted with clay to form a bowl. She strings together smaller works to make a necklace or ring.

GREAT AND SMALL – These tiny beads and trinkets were all hand crafted by Totty in her backyard workshop. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

“I don’t want my work to be just something that you dust,” she said.

Her various works are on display throughout her home and at her shop. But she’s also had the opportunity to exhibit them in shows at Montgomery Plaza and Neiman Marcus.

GETTING HOT – Here Totty continues working a small bead with her blow torch. She has to gradually cool all of her work, to keep from shocking the glass, causing breakage. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

Recently, she began experimenting with recycled items. She salvaged windows from a house a few lots over as it was being demolished. She plans to use them to create mosaics. She’s crafted a wind chime with eating utensils found amid restaurant scraps a friend used to feed his hogs.

She continues to hone her skills through her involvement in the Texas Glass Artist Association, which meets monthly at Merry Go Round.

“It is so beneficial because you can glean ideas from one another,” she said. “And sometimes they are the ones that push me to try something new, maybe a challenging technique.”

Using colored glass crushed to powder, she adds color to her creation. One of her first endeavors was a portrait of her daughter, Molly Mason, on a sheet of glass she plans to place over a mirror and surround with a mosaic arrangement.

“My daughter, who is my worst critic, said, ‘Mom, you nailed my nose!'” Totty said.

Although she’s mastered a technique that produces the look of blown glass, she said she’d eventually like to learn the actual art.

Later this month, she plans to attend a three-day workshop in Houston to learn how to make yard sculptures.

“Anything you can imagine can be done with glass,” Totty said. “My love has now grown into a passion and my life journey is now a dream coming true. Glass is an amazing medium, and the more you know about it, the more there is to learn.”

HAPPY ACCIDENTS – This scarlet colored serving tray was only created after it began life as a completely different project. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

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