My first experience in the glass world was at Hastings College, in south central Nebraska. On a whim, I signed up for a furnace glass-blowing class and became enamored with the feel, look, and mystery of glass. After graduation, my husband, Damon, and I applied to graduate schools in the medical world; I honestly never thought glasswork would be anything more than a hobby. After much consideration, Damon decided to pursue his medical education at Saba University School of Medicine on the island of Saba in the Dutch Caribbean, a five-square-mile island 28 miles south of Saint Martin. We would be there for two years for his book training and then return to the states for his rotation training, two years in a U.S. teaching hospital. During his rotation, I would attend either physical therapy school or chiropractic school depending on where Damon was placed. Not a bad plan.
While we were on the island, I met Jo Bean Chambers who owned a cute little gift store full of unique glass jewelry and other items. I had never seen art glass jewelry and was instantly intrigued. When she told me that she made the glass jewelry pieces, I almost fell over with shock. I had worked with glass, but I had never seen such small
intricate pieces; I didn’t know it was possible to make beautiful,
functional, and incredibly stylish jewelry out of glass. Soon after meeting Jo, her shop and most of the island were destroyed by
Hurricane Lenny, a category five storm in November of 1999—after hurricane season had ended. Nothing like an extreme circumstance to create an extremely wonderful and unlikely experience.
While picking up the destroyed shop, finding an earring in one corner and its match in another, we cried, laughed, and formed an incredible bond. That was when my apprenticeship in lampworking started. In the depths of destruction, fear, and grief, I found my calling. For two years, I was given the gift of glass: learning, practicing, failing, hearing “don’t do it like that,” “do it again,” “do it 10 more times; it’s not perfect yet,” then hearing, “that’s great; do it again.” Learning how to control liquid glass is one thing; learning how to make liquid glass layer, reflect, and look like something is another; and learning how to make liquid glass look like something consistently is another world altogether.
In our society, we have lost the idea of apprenticeship: for the
apprentice, the act of humbling oneself to learn a craft from a master, and, for the master, a willingness to pass on years of experience to the next generation. In a world of instant gratification, how-to books, and get-rich-quick-schemes, it is rare for anyone to devote two full years—training daily—to the perfection of a craft. Upon our return to the states, I decided that I truly loved working with glass and wanted to start my own company. So in 2001, Kari Heybrock Designs was born.
Damon has since graduated from medical school and is in the middle of his residency. My work is sold in boutiques and galleries in the Kansas City area, Breckenridge, Colo., Holualoa, Hawaii, and San Diego, Calif. I travel monthly participating in art shows, festivals, and private home shows from Jefferson City, Mo, to Washington, D.C., anywhere there are friends who love original art. Damon and I live in a great
neighborhood, Hyde Park, in Kansas City, Missouri, and we have both found another passion, restoring old houses, in order to revive a once great “suburb” of Kansas City.
Each piece of jewelry that I create has a great story along with great beauty, and, in a world of mass production, fast food, and convenience, it is a reminder that the purpose of art is to bring truth and beauty into our everyday lives. The fact that you can wear this art is just a bonus.