A dozen years ago, Shawn Palmer was in dire need of a hobby. He’d quit smoking and searching for something to occupy him. His mother suggested he take a bead-making class. He took his first class a few months later at Village Glass in Columbia. Shawn didn’t save much money with the switch, he says; he just shifted where it went.

Now 42 years old, Shawn has progressed far beyond beads to create more intricate and ornate glass pieces. Working in his home studio in Rocheport, Shawn crafts everything from figurines to pendants to marbles to memorial glass—a work that incorporates a loved one’s or pet’s ashes into glass.

Artist in Rocheport, Missouri
Many of Shawn’s pieces are pendants, which he strings on necklaces. He has been known to sell the one around his neck if a customer wants it.

He finds inspiration in the world around him. “Nature is endlessly fascinating,” he says. “I wish I could emulate it a little more, but that’s a fun challenge.”

It takes about 10 minutes for Shawn to turn out one of his simplest pieces: a heart. He starts with both clear and color rods, wrapping the clear with color as the bench-mounted flame heats the glass. He then cuts the molten mass almost in half with scissors to create the top of the shape and pulls the piece from the rod to create the base.

Shawn’s favorite pieces, however, are flowers that he encases in clear or colored glass and features in his marbles and pendants. “There are so many different variables that go into how they develop,” he says. “It’s a challenge.”

The materials Shawn uses for his creations have progressed along with his artistic skills. He now prefers a glass with the same consistency as scientific glass (think vintage Pyrex bakeware), a more workable material than the soda-lime glass he started with in bead-making.

“It’s friendlier with the flame and kiln,” he says. “It doesn’t expand and contract as much as the ‘soft glass.’ ” Soda-lime glass used in bead-making is soft glass, he says. It has more expansion and contraction ability and takes less heat.

“This doesn’t move as quickly, so it takes a lot more heat,” he adds.

The evolution in Shawn’s artistic process has come from his desire to experiment, to try new things. “I never really had a mentor,” he says. “This is all sort of just what I could glean from the internet and playing.”

Although he has an appreciation for the work of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and others, this self-taught artisan is proud that his journey has been on his terms and his timing.

He can get lost in the process when he’s at the bench, he says. “Time is funny when you’re melting glass. When you’re really focused on something, time is weird.”

Shawn would like to find more time to connect with the people who buy his art. “I think when the artist is there and you get to talk to people, you’re kind of buying a part of the artist instead of a piece of art.”

See more of Shawn Palmer’s work at Stockton Mercantile in Rocheport or follow him on Facebook.com/FireAndMagicStudio.