Fused glass art from the tropics of Costa Rica

Sámara, Costa Rica | 0 Sales


Fused glass art from the tropics of Costa Rica

Sámara, Costa Rica 0 Sales On Etsy since 2017

Lavae Aldrich

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Lavae Aldrich


Retired Seattle architect - Retooled as a glass artist in the tropics

Glass, prized by royalty since its discovery, in its simplest understanding, is sand melted with minerals. But the power to combine brilliant and shimmering colors, intricate patterns, and organic shapes that live and glow is sheer alchemy.

I have always loved looking at glass but I came to making glass art somewhat late in life. After a 30 year career in architecture, I took one class in glass blowing – I have the scar to prove it – and realized quickly that it would take a great deal of time and money to learn to do it well. If you’ve ever watched skilled glass blowers, as I did at the Pilchuck School north of my former home near Seattle, you’ll understand the hypnotic affect it had on me. I could watch glass blowers for hours, turning a bubble of white molten goo into an exquisite piece of three dimensional art. Glass is liquid light! I began to explore glass fusing, which is done in an electric kiln, just before I retired from my architecture practice. I played a bit but my fancy kiln lay mostly dormant while I was still working.

Then, in 2006 I closed my practice and moved to tropical Costa Rica, to live in the hills above one of the prettiest white sand beaches in Central America. With a new home, a new life, and a new kiln, I started working with glass in earnest from this small beach town in Guanacaste Province. I am mostly self-taught, although I’ve taken some seminars from some great and generous teachers. On-line resources, like YouTube, were great. One of the things I love most about working in glass art is the sense of cooperation and generosity among the community of glass artists around the world. LinkedIn has been a great resource for learning and solving problems. While on vacation in Quebec City, one glass artist shared with me a peculiar technique that solves a unique problem I have here in Costa Rica, where access to materials is limited and the climate is tough.

The other thing I love about glass fusing is the boundless possibilities for making art. I am constantly exploring innovative techniques and processes, traditional tools and fresh materials. I try to learn something new each time I fire the kiln. A lot of my glass art is driven by the medium itself, warm glass. I can use layered light and three dimensional texture in a way that painters can’t. And I can use gravity.

Each piece I sell in my shop starts with glass. Sheet glass is cut to size and stacked into a design. Opaque colors overlap transparent colors. Sticks and stringers of glass add dimension and detail. For jewelry especially, I use iridescent and dichroic glass to add sparkle and shine. Sometimes I add powdered glass, mica powders, or copper sheet for detail and depth. Then the glass goes into the electric kiln where the programmable controller heats it slowly to about 1425F. At that temperature, the glass is literally white hot and molten on the shelf. The different pieces of glass fuse together and become one as they slowly cool over 24 hours. For tableware, the cooled glass art is returned to the kiln in a ceramic mold, and then heated to about 1250F, where the glass softens and slumps into the mold shape.

My tropical lifestyle inspires my glass art. My habitual morning beach walks – I have a dog – proffer sunshine or tropical rain and warm waves at my feet. The view from my jewelry studio is 4 miles of deep green rain forest, dropping down to a quiet reef-protected bay. These are my sources of inspiration: flora and fauna, sea and sky, sun and rain. Still, my art is informed by my years as an architect. Color, balance, line, and contrast are inherent to the designs I make. I love to build things and the process of glass fusing keeps me engaged.

I started making jewelry almost by accident. Over these years of learning and practice, I have made a lot of blunders, which, frankly, were piling up. Always conscious to recycle, I broke up the mistakes with a hammer and returned the shards to the kiln to produce the beautiful cabochons I use in my pendants and earrings. I add them to bead embroidery for a unique focal point. Wire wrapping is a way to use the failures to make something incredible. Now my neighbors bring me wine and liquor bottles – Bombay Blue Gin is one of my favorite colors – to recycle in the same way.

If you find yourself in Playa Samara, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, you’ll discover my jewelry and tableware in the local market, Samara Organics. You can see the full range of my work on my website at To learn about new products, techniques, and seasonal pieces, subscribe to my blog

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  • Lavae Aldrich


    Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest of the US, I emigrated to Costa Rica in 2006. My husband and I love life in this quiet beach town. Making fused glass art and jewelry keeps me busy.

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Last updated on May 19, 2017
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