Leah Fairbanks began her career in glass in 1982 with studies at the prestigious Pilchuck School of Glass, and The Colton Glass School. She explored and pushed the limits of the medium, creating stained glass windows, neon sculptures, fused glass plates, bowls and jewelry. Inspired by her travels throughout France, Ms. Fairbanks specialized in commissioned installations for galleries and the home. Leah’s custom designed works of art, such as her stained glass and neon sculpture, Wind in the City of Light, have won her regional and national acclaim.
Leah’s first lampworked glass beadmaking class in 1992 guided the course of her path into the realm of hot glass. She found the quality of working with molten glass at the flame seductive and inspiring. From the onset of her lampworking career, Leah has translated her love of flora & fauna into delicate glass creations and aptly named her studio Gardens of Glass. Working with the exotic irises and orchids from her garden she drew upon nature to establish her sculptural collection of Goddesses, Angels and Mermaids.
To achieve a life-like rendering of flowers and leaves, Leah frequently mixes her own blends of frit and enamel powders to personalize her glass beads. Recurrent motifs of composition include wheat, iris, lavender and berries. Her Tapestry series of autumn leaves highlights her use of mixed metals, while The Monet series paints intricate bouquets of color. Bead & Button honored Ms. Fairbanks’ distinguishing floral style with a commission to design their first commemorative lampworked glass bead for the year 2000. This year she has been honored to create the 2010 commemorative bead for the 10th anniversary of Bead & Button and is being presented with the Excellence in Bead Artistry award which has been associated with the show since 2004. It is a recognition her life’s work, her connection to the show, and her overall creativity and contributions to the bead industry.
In her most recent work, Leah collaborates with her husband Derek Lusk of Opal Illusions. She begins by custom blending her glass to simulate semiprecious stones. Derek then sets gemstones such as ruby, sapphire, or topaz into each finished bead using an 18K bezel. These beads are often finished with faceted detail to reveal a truly elegant silhouette. Leah has fittingly named this collaboration her Bijoux collection.
Ms. Fairbanks was intimately involved in the resurgence of professional lampworked glass beadmaking in America during the 1990’s. Leah’s exploration in garden motifs directly influenced and impacted the early movement of floral decoration in contemporary glass beadmaking. Serving on the second Board of Directors of the Society of Glass Beadmakers, Leah provided direction in its formative stage in her role as Secretary/Treasurer from 1994 to 1995.
As an accomplished instructor, Leah has taught Beginning to Advanced Glass Beadmaking workshops nationwide since 1994. She has taught classes throughout the world which include Japan, Ireland, Australia, Denmark and Italy.
Leah specializes in finished jewelry as well as limited edition beads and her work is represented in galleries across the United States and Asia. These necklaces and earring sets intertwine her hand made glass beads with multiple strands of unique semi-precious stones and fresh water pearls. Leah makes her home in Ashland, Oregon with her husband Derek, and their daughter, Tara Arabella. You can visit my husband's website at www.opalillusions.com