Hi! I'm Nikki, owner and maker of Paly Glass, which launched online in March 2016. I am a stained glass artist who specialises in the copper foiling method and everything is made by hand by me in Bristol, South West England.
I studied graphic design at college and then went on to do an art foundation degree at UWE. The year long course was great and gave me the opportunity to try out many different things. I would definitely recommend an art foundation to anyone who isn't sure which creative path they would like to pursue after A levels!
Whilst studying, I made my own jewellery and sold the pieces on eBay. This eventually turned into a full time business and I became self-employed. I did this for 4 years before I decided I wanted a change and I started working at a pre-school. At this point, sales went down and work took over so I stopped my eBay business.
Five years on and I really wanted to be creative and start making again. I found an antique pressed flower frame and a terrarium at a car boot sale and I fell in love with both of them. I wanted to make my own and did a lot of research, learning all about copper foiling. I booked on to a local stained glass course in September 2015 and I loved it instantly. I purchased all the tools I needed and haven't stopped making since!
After completing 3 terms of my stained glass course I continued practising at home. Over time, I began to see a massive improvement in my soldering. I opened my Etsy shop 7 months after I started my course.
I started off making small terrariums and pressed flower frames. I then started selling at local markets, my main one being The Frome Independent which is held every month and is an amazing market with over 200 stalls of handmade goods and food stalls (if you have never been, you must!). Selling at amazing markets like Frome and Crafty Fox really gave me the opportunity to meet customers and other traders and get invaluable feedback. I realised how much I loved talking to people and selling my items face to face. So selling at markets is just as important to me as having an online presence.
My products have now evolved in to bigger terrariums and many more flower frames in lots of different shaped frames. They are filled with both flowers I have personally pressed (and also now pressed by my Mum and my fiancé's Mum !) and custom orders from customers sending me very sentimental flowers to be framed by me, some as far as America and Sri Lanka!
There is a great deal of work and process that goes into each finished piece. I love that there are so many steps as it means I get to see each piece through from beginning to end with my own hands.
First I start with a pencil and a whole load of graph paper to measure and draw the designs onto. The design is cut out with scissors and then I draw around each piece of the paper pattern onto the glass. Once the design is drawn out it's cut with a special metal ruler and a glass cutter. Each piece of glass is then foiled with copper foil tape. Once each piece is foiled it's then time to put on my mask and solder! Then it's time to wash the soldered piece with warm water and soap. The solder is silver in colour but with a special chemical called patina I can turn the solder black or copper, the latter being a very popular choice at the moment! Then the final stage is a good polish and that's it, a nice shiny new product!
I would have to say one of my favourite pieces in my collection is my cow parsley frame. It's also called Queen Anne's Lace because it looks just like lace, it’s so pretty. The best bit is in the summer it grows literally everywhere (it's a bit like a weed) so I'm always going out for walks to pick some! There are so many different types that once pressed all look completely different. Once it's pressed and put in between the two layers of glass you can see every tiny detail and no two pieces are ever the same.
My studio is currently in my house, in my spare bedroom. It's a small space but luckily you don't need a massive space for making glass. The only problem being that glass does seem to get everywhere so I'm constantly vacuuming up all the bits from the floor, so as not to get any stuck in my foot, which has happened before!
I am totally glass obsessed, I absolutely love windows, my favourite being old leaded stained glass windows. I will look for it above front doors, windows and churches. Luckily there is a lot of stained glass around Bristol. I'm always taking photos for inspiration, which gets a little embarrassing when the owners come out and wonder what I'm doing! Nature is a big inspiration for me as well, my favourite thing is to go for a walk to the forest or by a river and search for some natural things to press. I recently went for a winter walk and found so much beautiful dead foliage like cow parsley seed heads and thistles. It would probably look like weeds to others but is like treasure for me!
I'm a crazy cat lady, but I'm also a crazy plant lady! I'm very lucky that I can just make my own glass pot whenever I like and in whatever size. I have a lot of hanging terrariums around my house filled with trailing plants and succulents. I'm also now obsessed with air plants and they intrigue so many people when I'm selling at markets, they are a great conversation starter! Glass shelves and terrariums are perfect for them, as they don't need soil just light and water meaning they can just hang beautifully in the glass.
Music is a big part of my working day! I always have the radio on or a mix to keep me going. Oh and my cat, working at home can be lonely sometimes as my fiancé is out working in the day so she's always popping into the studio to see what's going on!
Currently I sell my products through Etsy and Not On The High street but I would love to have my own website as well, so I am hoping to start work on that soon. I have also recently started to make very tiny pressed flower pendants (after feedback from customers saying they would love to wear my flower frames) that are small enough to wear as jewellery. I'm hoping to eventually go back to my jewellery roots and start making glass that people can wear.
Shop the gorgeous collection now on the Shopping With Soul Directory.