Welcome to My Wonder :)
Life is Short … Eat the Cake, Kiss the Boy, Make the Art.
Island-born Michelle Frost’s journey has been one of contrasts; small town girl leaves home to study art and architecture in the city, opens a gallery, and finds herself in the spotlight of the emerging art world–only to pivot to accounting, and corporate and government life.
It was the process of untangling grief that lead her, lovingly, back to her art and the work of her hands. Just as glass can shatter on the studio floor and be recast, Michelle returned to her small inlet-town on the West Coast of Canada to reflect, reinvent, watch the waves, and breathe in forest and beach and campfire.
Michelle’s studio, Coastal Flow Glass Co. is where she (with a little support from her two fur babies) creates beautiful, enduring art forms and weaves her imagery into modern décor designs as a way to share her beloved West Coast with others.
Q&A With Michelle
What was your first exposure to glass as an art form? How has that inspired your present work?
Soon after my partner passed away about eight years ago, I reconnected with an old friend who invited me to visit their furniture restoration studio. This was located within a large glass studio, which rented space to to other artist. I met the owner of the glass studio, Dennis, and it turned out he used to sell glass boats to my Mom's old gift shop twenty-five years ago. Small world.
Still grieving, I was having a hard time being away from home too long. Dennis sensed my unease and after chatting about my long history with art, he invited me to take a glass sampler class. I was hooked.
Everyday I showed up for coffee and Dennis shared his 30+ years of knowledge with me. Each day teaching me one small thing. Letting me hang out as long or as little as I needed. I had full run of the studio, and he encouraged me to experiment, test, to fail fast and move on. His practical, no nonsense, no fear approach was a breath of fresh air.
The way I learned to make glass instilled a lack of preciousness in my work. I have no fear to push boundaries, to experiment, to get it wrong. That’s the access to getting it right.
I have a confidence about what and how I make my art and the mediums which I choose to play. It’s light, fun – not heavy or serious.
You’re also a painter. How is that experience different for you? What themes do you explore in your painting?
Glass is very technical. You need to dig in an really understand its properties, its boundaries in order to drive the results you want. The more you understand these, the greater freedom it allows you in the creative process. And yet, the kiln gods always have their own agenda. It’s a cheeky medium, always taunting and poking playfully but when it lands it sticks and it is freaking awesome. Which suits my personality.
The theme of my paintings are typically about movement, about making waves. I love how paint flows and how despite attempts to direct and move it, once it settles it continues to migrate whether I want it to or not. I find humour in that as someone who spent years trying to slow down life and control things.
Painting remind me of my lack of control, that I can suggest and guide but in the end it will be what it will be. I try to anticipate where it’ll go and it always leaves me surprised. Glass is similar. Sharp, hard and structured to begin but once in the kiln and heat is applied, it does what it does, despite my best efforts to predict it.
You live in an environmentally-friendly home on an island off Canada’s West Coast. How does that environment shape your work?
My home is what’s called “Net Zero” – it produces as much energy as it consumes, netting to zero electricity consumption. We built it to the year 2032 building code and it’s the first in my area. There are fewer than twenty of these homes in British Columbia, where I live, and less than 100 across Canada.
I guess, like this house, big ideas seem natural and flow easily for me. Moving back home and expanding my art path is all about finding my own sense of flow. Having a life that’s bold, and yet easy. My glass work express that. There are simple ideas that have a bold impact, and are created with ease.
The eco-friendly nature of glass from sand, to glass, to art is full circle. The art glass I use has zero waste. Scrap pieces get new life as frit (small, sand like pieces of crushed glass) to be used in future works, pieces that fail are smashed up and sorted by colour to be melted down and pulled into glass strings. The tempered glass I used is never purchased new it’s 100% re-loved material rescued form the bin. Old tables tops, shower or patio doors that I smash up and use to make beautiful vessels. Even the paint I use can be everything from art paints to mis-tinted house paints.
You grew up in a small town, but left for city living and the corporate world. Yet here you are, back to your roots. What lessons do you take away from that?
My path back to my roots is really about not being afraid to do what you need to feed your soul regardless of what it may look like to others. Taking a leap to follow what seemed right has allowed me to craft this amazing studio, build a home ahead of its time, find new love which was totally unexpected, reconnecting to my family and so much more. Letting go of the things that no longer served me, bring brave enough to step out of the comfort zone and take that step forward opens up a path beyond what I could have imagined. It’s where I am at this moment: taking that next step to follow my creative path.
People are often afraid - of the judgment of others, of their own judgment - to adopt an artistic practice. What prompts do you give them to get over that fear?
I have this thing I do when I hear the voice of judgement in my head. I say–out loud–I know, crazy–“Hey, thanks for sharing, I'm good at the moment, I will get back to you if I need your help". It's my way of acknowledging those little voices, letting them speak their peace, taking what I need and then moving along.
There are 7 billion unique people in this world. My biggest prompt for us creative souls: FIND YOUR TRIBE! Surround yourself with people who are up to the same things you are. If they aren’t local, seek them out. If social media has given us any gift it’s about finding community. Your friends and family will love you but they may not understand your creative path. That's okay. They aren’t meant to, it isn't their job. It’s your job. Find your tribe, create a tribe. That is on you.
You need a wide, deep community of people who can support you where you are and where you can support them. You need a tribe with people who have risen up and are where you want to be so they can help light the path for you. Don't make this hard, follow the damn path. And finally, you need a tribe of people who are just beginning so you can not only be reminded of how far you have come but so you can lift them up while you climb.