Artist Lisa Stirrett is molding glass to help shape a better world | KITSAP WEEKLY

Through Stirrett’s artistic endeavors, her mission has developed a deeper purpose — to create stunning works of art that impact and inspire, while being a globally recognized art brand that empowers women.

Lisa Stirrett's most recent public commissioned piece is a permanent installation of an underwater seascape

SILVERDALE — Lisa Stirrett, owner of the Lisa Stirrett Glass Studio and a commissioned artist with multiple works around Kitsap and beyond, had never really considered herself to be an artist, but rather, a survivalist.

As she stood in her studio gallery on April 26, surrounded by her uniquely colored and intricate glass creations, the spring sunlight streamed in, making the pieces around her glow.

“I’ll be honest,” she said. “I’d always felt inferior, like I didn’t have the credentials to be an artist. I just needed to create a product to sell so I could stay home with my kids.”

One dead fish and a white T-shirt is where she got her start.

“I’d been studying Gyotaku (the Japanese art of fish imprinting). So when I caught this little rock cod, I decided to try it.”

She applied paint to the fish and pressed it. It was at that moment that she realized art was her vehicle.

She soon escalated to commissioned work at Nordstrom, Costco and the Washington state ferry terminals. Her most recent public commissioned piece — and one of her largest — is a permanent installation of an underwater seascape, hanging from the ceiling of the library in the new Village Green Community Center in Kingston.


Six, 5-foot-long wave-like glass panels required four days in the kiln. Surrounding the waves are three glass codfish, five salmon, and 19 jellyfish, all in a variety of colors.

“I used to be a diver. I remember sitting at the bottom of the ocean just watching the waves above me and this is what I saw,” said the artist, who is of North Carolina Cherokee ancestry.

“There’s got to be a movement and organic feel to it. Glass is stylized, so it was a fun challenge for me to make it look realistic.”

Although Stirrett has experimented with glass and metal for almost 20 years, she said she never knows what the end result of the glass will be.

“Sometimes when we open up the kiln, it’s like Christmas morning,” she said. “Other times, we want to bury it in the backyard.”

After each experiment, Stirrett said she and her team work backward, performing what she likes to call “Kiln CSI,” to determine why a piece of glass had a positive or negative reaction.

She was especially proud of her most recent experiment, a glass sea cucumber (part of the Village Green installation) that free-formed in the kiln to make an organic shape.

Another piece that pleasantly surprised Stirrett was a glass platter with sand from a village in Africa encapsulated in the middle. Even after firing, the sand is able to move freely in the center of the art piece.

Though that piece isn’t for sale, the concept led her to create her “Wisdom Plaques,” glass plaques made with dirt from interesting places. Being customizable, they are popular ways to hold dirt from a special place or hold the ashes of a loved one, she said.

“We’re like a chameleon of sorts,” Stirrett said. All of her projects are either cast or fused glass. While the glass is flat, she creates the shape and adds texture, color and design. After its first round in the kiln, the glass is buffed, cleaned and put back under fire to be shaped.

“I don’t want it to be contrived,” she said. “I want it to be natural looking.”

To accomplish this, she uses materials like sand and water to give her pieces a natural texture; raw metals help enhance the look.

However, with four different kinds of glass, each with their own colorant and firing methods, she said the technique depends on what glass they use.

“We have to think about everything,” she said. “The engineering, safety, beauty, lasting life, how to clean it …”

She described the capricious material as “fickle — like a woman.” But, she adds, “Like a woman, in fire she’ll get stronger.”

Through Stirrett’s artistic endeavors, she has developed a deeper purpose — to create stunning works of art that impact and inspire, while being a globally recognized art brand that empowers women.

She has helped Walk In The Light International, based in Port Orchard, raise more than $140,000 to build a new healthcare center in Burkina Faso.

“A little boy named Mohammad died from meningitis, a sickness easily treatable with medication,” she said. “His family transported him nearly 60 miles to the closest village with a healthcare center. There, he was sent away to another village. When they arrived there, he was deemed contagious and untreatable. He died on the journey back to his home. He was 7.

“Most children, one out of five, before 5 years old die from malaria in Burkina Faso — something that a pill will cure. A healthcare center was needed, and little by little we raised the money.”

Stirrett spent December 2015 in Burkina Faso as a volunteer for Walk In The Light, which invests in clean water and sanitation projects in developing African nations. During this trip, she worked on the new health care center and led a micro-loan program for women who have, or want to start their own, business.

The “Pay it Forward” loan program offers women in Africa the opportunity to receive a down payment and training to start their own business. One hundred percent of the money given as a loan is paid back in full and then gifted to another woman to start or grow her business. So far, the program has funded successful ventures in jewelry, leather, spice, soap making, and pig farming.


“We went to Africa with 10 suitcases filled with medical supplies, and came back with 10 suitcases filled with hand-made bags, jewelry, beautiful fabrics, and beads,” she said. “When you go somewhere and [share their lives], it starts to change you.”

Now, Stirrett is preparing to take 10 women to Africa in October for a 10- to 12-day stay, training women to start their own businesses.

Stirrett, the recent recipient of the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Award, hosts a charitable organization at her studio quarterly.

She said, “There’s a heart behind everything I do. It’s about empowering. We work to make people feel empowered, to have people walk in and feel empowered — empowering people to be the best they can be. It’s not always about selling art.”

At the studio, prices range from $5 to what Stirrett refers to as “ooh la la.”

“Silverdale is dominated by box stores,” said Courtney Cole-Faso, business strategist for the studio. “Here, Lisa is selling something that’s a conversation piece. In here, there’s a story behind everything she does.

“One of the reasons Lisa is so successful is because she’s built a level of trust in the community. She is trusted to create public installations that are not only beautiful but structurally sound. It sets her apart as a business woman, an artist and a member of the community.”

Suzy Bell, a studio employee, said the studio is “a jewel in Silverdale. It’s an inspiration. People feel at home even when they’ve never been here before, and they always want to come back … Art can do that.”

Stirrett laughed as she said, “I absolutely didn’t have a business plan when I opened the studio. I really thought I would just open the doors and if somebody wanted anything I’d make it.”

Nowadays, between running the business, hosting different charities and traveling between the U.S. and Africa, Stirrett said that’s not an issue.

“I’ll tell you the truth, we’re kind of running behind,” she said. “Now, we’re starting to work on a backsplash, railings, and a chandelier … This is more than a store, it’s an experience.”

For more information or to donate to the Pay it Forward loan program, go to www.lisastirrett.com.


 

More in News

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lewis Beck and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Houvener, both marine science technicians at Coast Guard Sector Juneau, look through federal regulations during a container inspection in Juneau, Alaska, June 19, 2015. Coast Guard inspectors follow rigid, standardized regulations to ensure maritime operators across the country are held to the same rules. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.
Government shutdown could have effects on ferry service

USCG inspectors left shorthanded amid government shutdown

Former California Governor visits Olympia to push renewable energy

By Emma Scher WNPA Olympia News Bureau Former California Governor Jerry Brown… Continue reading

Lawmakers propose plan to reduce food waste by 50 percent

By Madeline Coats WNPA Olympia News Bureau Three representatives from the Democratic… Continue reading

Search for new police chief begins

Marti to retire this year; salary boost expected to increase recruitment pool

State AG: Navy released ‘50 dump truck loads’ of toxic pollutants into Sinclair Inlet in 2017

Attorney General Bob Ferguson threatened a citizens’ lawsuit if the Navy does not address its alleged “ongoing violations” of the Clean Water Act.

Downtown Poulsbo restaurant to offer free meals to federal workers

The Burrata Bistro will be serving lunch on Jan. 27 to workers affected by the government shutdown

Bremerton girls located after scare

The three children were reported “missing and endangered” Tuesday.

Siliqua patula, a clam native to the Northwest, could become a very special mollusk in Washington. Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Bill could see razor clam recognized as Washington’s state clam

If passed Washington would become the first to officially designate a state clam

Most Read