Across the Bridge - July 2019
Artist Cindy Easterling creates kiln glass works that reflect the beauty of life on the Gulf Coast.
- Story by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, photos by Rheta Grimsley Johnson and Cindy Easterling
She is a slip of a woman with eyes big and bright as a child in a Margaret Keane painting.
Cindy Easterling, architect and fused glass artist, has more energy than the proverbial law allows and a sense of humor about life and its many curve balls.
Hurricane Katrina demolished much of the condo complex, including stairs, which her absent sister had just purchased as an investment in August of 2005. So, Cindy asked friends to hold the extension ladder while she climbed up to the third floor to see what was salvageable.
“I looked like a turtle, climbing back down with a laundry basket strapped to my back.”
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The motion of the ocean is reflected in the glass that has become Cindy’s passion, an art she perfects in a shed where kiln space is divided with rakes and shovels. The shed/studio is behind her old pink house near the beach in Pass Christian. The house looks like a beach house should, not some brick McMansion but a wooden relic that has withstood a lot and earned its defects.
“That’s why I chose it,” she says.
Her grandfather’s house in the Pass, where Cindy spent many happy childhood days, was heavily damaged in Camille, and her great-grandfather’s house destroyed. But that did not dampen her enthusiasm for the coast. Buying an old house in the same town appealed to both Cindy and her engineer husband, Bob, who loves to sail.
But right now they divide their time between the Pass and St. Louis, where her architecture business and Bob’s job and elderly mother keep them anchored. They hope someday to live full-time on the coast, and they plan their lives around that eventuality.
Cindy’s work has become increasingly popular all over the coast, and its distinctive transluscence and sea glass colors make it instantly identifiable. Some would say recognizable work is the mark of genius, like a Willie Nelson upbeat riff, or a Walter Anderson swirl.
Her fused glass work, also called kiln glass, began about seven years ago when she took classes from a neighbor at Craft Alliance Gallery in St. Louis.
“But it all really began in college with a bottle cutter,” she insists. That bottle cutter stayed on a shelf for more than 30 years until an empty nest and self-employment -- after years in the corporate rat race -- let her pursue her art again.
A New Orleans native, Cindy graduated from Newcomb College of Tulane University. She was in a fine arts curriculum but her father insisted that her degree must be in something “practical” enough to support herself, need be, so she finished in architecture as a kind of compromise.
Now, with time and the Mississippi Gulf as inspiration, she makes plates, vases, dishes, platters, ornaments and other glass delectibles, using American or recycled glass. They are both functional and decorative, but all beautiful. “I love the play and interaction of light on glass.”
She likes to be able to see through the pieces, so usually at least two layers of flat glass are cut and fused together at high temperatures to add strength. Decorative flourishes can be more glass – descriptively called stringers, frits and confetti – or gold, silver, copper or other metals.
“The first thing that I do every morning is open my blinds and look out at the water, trees and clouds. It is different every day, and I never get tired of looking at the view.”
Her house designs through the years also spawned another hobby. Cindy hopes to compile a book of photographs she made of homes in the Pass before Katrina, which now can be found on her note cards.
Those photographs, she says, “are an outgrowth of looking through the lens at details” and different views of the homes she designed and the old homes she loves.
It pleases Cindy no end when her art projects find “a good home,” and other people see in her work the ocean, the sand and the vegetation of the area she loves.
Cindy’s art glass is available at many area galleries, the Hillyer House in Ocean Springs and the Ohr Museum gift shop in Biloxi. She will be one featured artist at the upcoming exhibit “Water, Water” at the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs.
Her website is www.passbeachhouse.com.