A touch of glass
You might notice the contrasts first: her blonde-tipped spiky hair but softly modulated voice. Her thoughtful way of speaking but mischievous glint in her eye when talk turns to playing with fire. Andrea Kerr creates fused glass art from layers of colors and shapes, and sometimes bits of copper or mica, transformed by 1,550-degree heat.
“I like to try different things and experiment,” she says. The results are kaleidoscopic platters and bowls, what she calls “cha cha” dishes, and jewelry pendants.
Kerr prefers strong color and freeform patterns. “I’m more an abstract artist,” she says. “I don’t like to limit myself.”
Her eyes light up when describing her favorite wall-art pieces—“the bigger the better”—to claim the limelight in a room. A design might resemble blood-red sunbeams radiating against a yellow sky or a woven lattice of blue-green to evoke the ripples of a mountain stream.
If some artists come straight from the womb knowing their calling, Kerr’s not one of them.
“I was a fool not to start earlier in my life,” she says. “I had a romantic idea about blowing glass until I did it.” She flashes a wicked grin. “But it was like the house was on fire when I tried it. That cured me. Maybe I could blow glass in the wintertime—naked.” With a laugh, she adds, “But fusing I could do.”
Kerr comes from artists: painter parents, siblings who sketch and work clay and shape metal. “I was the only child who couldn’t draw a stick man. I figured I didn’t get that gene,” she says.
From her mother, she learned to appreciate color and natural beauty. “She used to throw us in the old station wagon and haul ass out to Pyramid Lake, going, like, 90.” The Kerr kids would play on the beach beneath a turquoise sky and bury each other in the sand. And there were years of being dragged to galleries and museums. “You’re just a product of all that,” she says. Eventually, her hunger to make art evolved. She shrugs. “I had to figure it out.”
Studying and practice consumed the first five years. “You learn to handle the glass,” she remarks. “I only had to have surgery once on my hand to get the glass out.”
She shies from self-promotion, explaining, “Making art is about feeding your soul.” Eventually her sister and other friends convinced her to sell her work. After exhibiting in a few local galleries she found a good fit with Wildflower Village on West Fourth Street. Its owner, Pat Campbell-Cozzi, says, “Andrea has the ability to take a piece of glass and transform it. And the nice thing is, she makes her art affordable.”
Kerr’s gallery work led to a commission for a collaborative piece created from glass and woven willows for public display at Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare center in Carson City. She’ll welcome more commissions after retiring this summer from Washoe County.
While painters and sculptors place precise strokes to deliver a particular effect, Kerr starts with colors and shapes and multiple layers for a design she has in mind. Once her computerized kiln is locked tight, the piece is fired automatically and annealed over a span of hours. When she opens the kiln door, “it’s like Christmas.” After the planning and anticipation comes the gift. With a satisfied smile, she lifts a sushi platter so that light can play across its jewel tones. In a way, she’s like her fused glass: cool in appearance and all that fire on the inside.