An Interview with Jennifer L Worden
words and photos by Noor Hindi
Jennifer L. Worden was recently chosen to be part of eBay’s entrepreneurship program “Retail Revival” which involves a 12-month partnership between the city of Akron and eBay. Jennifer is an Akron-based glass blowing artist. We recently sat down with her to talk about her plans with eBay and her love of glass.
Noor Hindi: What’s your earliest memory making art?
Jennifer L. Worden: I’ve been crafting as early as I could. I remember hand-dyeing cotton thread to make friendship bracelets. I remember finding cotton string and then dying it with water colors and food coloring to make different colors for making the knotted friendship bracelets.
NH: How old were you?
JLW: Probably elementary school.
NH: When did you start kiln firing?
JLW: About 10 years ago.
NH: Why did you get into it?
JLW: I’ve always loved glass. I remember in high school seeing a PBS documentary on Dale Chihuly and I’m just like ‘Wow, that’s so awesome. I love that.’ You can’t really blow glass in your basement, so I started off doing stained glass mosaics. And I mosaiced everything. And my husband was like, ‘You need to stop.’ I said, ‘Well then you need to let me buy a kiln.’ He was afraid I would burn down the house. But we’re good. No fires.
JLW: Everything is nature-inspired. I just like looking at weird and interesting things and seeing how I can interpret them in glass.
NH: Why does nature inspire you?
JLW: I was a horticulture major in college. I didn’t complete it, but I’ve always liked the outdoors and growing things. I live right by the Metro Parks so it’s easy just to walk in there and see what fun things are happening and growing.
NH: Did you spend a lot of time outdoors as a kid?
JLW: Yes, like any kid. We didn’t have Nintendo and cell phones and all that stuff so we got kicked outside and came back in when it was dark and dinner time.
NH: Aside from nature, what inspires you?
JLW: Shapes and patterns. I look a lot at fabric patterns. Looking at one thing will make me think of something else. Also, looking at microscopic cellular images in inspiring.
NH: Do you make your art in your office at Summit Artspace?
JLW: I do all the assembling and arranging here. The county owns the building, so kilns, torches and open flames aren’t allowed. I do that part at home, and then I bring everything here to assemble.
JLW: Oh, yes. It’s a great space. It’s a great community. If you’re ever stuck or need an idea or suggestion, you just wander down the hallway to find someone to pick their brain. I love being here. It’s a great building.
NH: Do you think you’ll ever grow out of Summit Artspace?
JLW: I don’t think so. The community here really makes a huge difference. You wouldn’t get that sort of community at a storefront on your own. I mean, there’s always options and ability to move up to a bigger space in the building, but right now I think I’m right-sized.
NH: When you’re working on your projects, what are you thinking about?
JLW: When I’m cutting the glass, I’m a murder podcast listener. So, the true crime podcasts, I have like 12 of them that I’m listening to, depending on what I’ve caught up on. So I listen to those.
JLW: Oh, yeah. I started making necklaces and jewelry and that sort of thing. I had some success but I look at pictures now and I’m like ugh, no one needs to see that.
NH: Did you feel good about the pieces at the time?
JLW: Yes, because it’s really hard to make glass look ugly. You have to really mess it up to make it look ugly.
NH: Why is that?
JLW: I don’t know if it’s the shine, or just the properties of it, but it really is hard to find ugly glass.
NH: You mentioned earlier you taught yourself kiln firing. How did you do that?
JLW: YouTube and lots of experimentation. You gotta love the Akron Public Library. They have lots of books on glass and things like that.
JLW: Just to keep producing as long as people enjoy it and it puts a smile on people’s faces. I don’t do anything that’s super serious. There’s enough seriousness out in the world. I am total fluff, whimsy.
I have a compulsion of making so hopefully there are people out there that will buy and put pieces into their homes so I can make more to fill up space. And I like to make things that are reasonably priced because I don’t think you should have to be rich to be able to afford art.
NH: What are you working on now?
JLW: Photography for eBay. I’m trying to get that set up and start working on that project.
NH: What are you hoping of getting out of the eBay partnership?
JLW: I’m hoping to expand and get some more sales that aren’t in Northeast Ohio. And more exposure that way.
JLW: No, I think it’ll be great. The people who came from eBay were all higher-ups and they were so genuinely nice and they really want to help us. It seems that they really want to do whatever is in their power to make this program succeed here which is awesome.
What’s your connection to Akron?
JLW: I grew up in northern California. I came to Akron because I met my husband in a chatroom back in the day before online dating, and he’s from Akron. And I was like, ‘OK, let’s give Akron a try,’ and I really like it here. It’s a big enough city, but it’s not too big. And for the size we are, we have a great art community and awesome art museum and you can drive 15 minutes down the road and be at a farm or be in a national park. So I think we’re lucky we’re in this location geographically.
NH: Do you have other hobbies or interests?
JLW: I read a lot. But I’m pretty much making stuff seven days a week.
NH: What do you ultimately hope to communicate through your art?
JLW: Art doesn’t have to be taken seriously. You don’t have to buy a piece of art because of the message behind it or what you think the artist is saying. If it’s something you like and it brings joy to you then that’s the right piece for you.