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Interview with Barbara Trombley:

"Do what you love..."

Barbara Trombley photoWhen Arizona was selected to provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for 2009, a state-wide effort was launched to create ornaments that reflected the pride and beauty of the Grand Canyon State. The raw materials came from the State Parks - mesquite and yucca seed pods, Arizona Cypress cones, and Locust tree seed pods filled with dried berries, flowers, seeds. To highlight their natural beauty, the project organizers turned to a native daughter, Barbara Trombley of Art Institute Glitter in Cottonwood, Arizona.

Barbara's artistry in the underestimated medium of glitter was the transforming miracle for the Arizona Christmas Tree. But that is why Barbara loves what she does.

As she was growing up in Detroit, Barbara astonished her family and teachers with her imaginative drawing and painting skills. She attended The College of Creative Studies, majoring in ceramics, water-color and fabric design. Afterward, she stretched her skills in painting, jewelry and ceramics, while holding down day jobs as a commercial graphic designer. And each year for 20 years, she created a personal Christmas card, always featuring a different art medium.

1982 was the Christmas that changed everything. Her cards that year were decorated with coarse metallic glitter and school glue. Within a week, she received her first commission to create glittered invitations for a New Year's party. An idea was born, and Barbara devoted her next two years to formulating and developing both the glitter and the adhesives that were to become the foundation for her handmade glittered card business, Northern Lights Cards.

Soon, Barbara was fielding requests from artists and crafters for her superior glitters. She founded Art Institute Glitter, determined to make the medium of glitter as rich and varied as a painter's palette. She developed new colors, industrial-strength and specialty adhesive, and metal application tips that became identified as her Art Glittering System. Her 2006 book, Glitter Artistry: Bags, Tags & Cards (Lark/Chapelle), brought together some of her most innovative techniques, and cemented her international title of the "Glitter Queen."

Today, Art Institute Glitter supplies artists and crafters worldwide with more than 400 brilliant glitter grades and colors, as well as specially-formulated adhesives. Her glitters now include glass shards, natural organic glitters, and "faux snow." She has even "de-constructed" glitter to find new creative uses for its reflective plastic ingredients, creating the versatile textural materials of "fantasy film" and "fantasy fiber."

And still, Barbara is creating art from the heart. When we met with her in January, she showed us her latest multi-media work, a collaged fuse box with playful angel-like features. We were so glad to talk with her again in April 2010 about her glitter, her book and her life as the "Glitter Queen."

VIC: Decorating the Capitol Christmas Tree last year was a tremendous project, involving school children across Arizona crafting and glittering almost 4,000 natural ornaments for the 65-foot pine tree. Tell us how you were involved in the process, and how it made you feel to be part of this national symbol?

2009 Capitol Christmas Tree
© Barbara Trombley
2009 Capitol Christmas Tree
"I was quite honored and excited to be instrumental in the project to decorate the Capitol Christmas Tree last year. Karen Farias, the Education Program Planner for Arizona State Parks, contacted us about participating. Karen and I sat down and discussed how to approach each unique ornament. Creating designs that were particularly suited for elementary school children to successfully manage and replicate was a major consideration. We decided upon our Ultrafine Glitter and Designer Dries Clear Adhesive for the school children. Decorating ornaments from nature was a unique and special experience and the children loved it!"

VIC: Glitter has a long history, from mica flakes in ancient cave paintings to the beginning of its mass production after World War II. And yet, you have come up with something new - Your "Elements" line of nature-based glitters in earth tones. How did this idea begin and how did you develop the colors and varieties?

"I just received an inspiring thought from God that nature-based glitters would look wonderful with natural papers for an organic or perhaps vintage look. As eco-concepts are increasingly popular with artists, I wanted to create an embellishment which could coordinate and resonate with the earthy, rough, imprecise yet refined textures and colors of nature. I started experimenting with several organic components, and manipulated them until I had a variety of shades and shapes that reflect a myriad of dimensional earth tones. The 'Elements' Line has been so popular because of the unusual alignment of 'glitter within the context of nature.'"

© Barbara Trombley
Christmas Window Decoration
VIC: We were fortunate to use your Vintage Glass Shards glitter for our Christmas Window Decoration craft. The quality of this glitter was so apparent, from the rich colors to the uniform grains. What is the history of this form of glitter, and what is the process for making it?

"I'm told that art historians believe the earliest source for glass glitter was from volcanic ash. The extreme heat turns sand particles into glass. Today, however, it is formed by blowing up a balloon of glass until it shatters. Then the shards are sifted into the different particles and sizes. It is so popular because people like the vintage look, the way that it will fade with time and the varying hues and dimensions created with this glitter. Martha Stewart and her designers use it all the time!"

VIC: Fantasy Film was prominent in your CHA booth this year. We saw applications as small as cards, and as large as ethereal life-size angel wings. This must be a favorite material for sculptural and collage artists like yourself. Tell us about some of the ways people have been using fantasy film.

Fantasy Film fairy wings
©Barbara Trombley
Fantasy Film by Barbara Trombley
"It is an amazing product and so rewarding to work with. It’s really exciting to watch it change shape and turn several brilliant colors while heating it. As well as the wearable wings, One-Of-A-Kind Doll artists are using it for fairy wings and mermaid tails. Then there are gourd artists, molding scraps of Fantasy Film around their gourds for some stunning results. I've even seen light switch plates covered with it that look fantastic! The list goes on and on: butterflies, dragonflies, envelopes and three-dimensional roses that sparkle and shine forever. But I’m really inspired by the remarkable effects collage artists create by melting and twisting Fantasy Film into very imaginative backgrounds and focal points on their pieces."

VIC: Your book, Glitter Artistry: Bags, Tags & Cards, is the bible of glitter crafting. In it, we can see how you continually stretch the boundaries of glitter applications. You also revel in the joy of color. How did you choose the projects for your book, and how do you think it has impacted the crafting community?

© Barbara Trombley
Glitter Artistry cover by Barbara Trombley
"The gals at 'Red Lips For Courage' (a subdivision of Lark/Chapelle Books) gave us a broad outline to start with and we tried to bring as many different techniques to card making as we could think of. It was pure joy! The whole staff came together with creative ideas to make it happen. And we only scratched the surface of the myriad of ways these classic products can be used. Both 'less is more' and 'over the top' can be perfect. Each project shows the countless directions glitter can take you, and the impact is reverberating. This book has helped Art Glitter become recognized and sought all over the world. I’m so thankful 'Red Lips For Courage' found us. I would love to make another book with them!"

VIC: We'll admit it. For us, the great revelation in Glitter Artistry is your technique for making glitter lace. We've used it over and over, and now we look at lace, and almost everything, as a form of stencil. Tell us about the first time you created glitter lace and how people reacted to it.

Glitter lace on scrapbook page
© Barbara Trombley
Glitter lace scrapbook page by Barbara Trombley
"I am told that designer Suze Weinberg created the glitter lace technique. From her inspired idea, I think we took it to a whole new level. The reaction is always the same: 'dazed and amazed' with the beauty of the possibilities and how easy it is. We had an enormously warm response to a YouTube video we released last year demonstrating the technique. It is a true favorite among new and experienced Art Glitter fans. And it reinvents itself every year. Every time we think we've done all we can with it, someone comes up with something more beautiful like this scrapbook page. Of course, glitter and scrapbooking go hand in hand!"

VIC: Art Institute Glitter is available around the world now, resulting in a new glitter sensibility, as well as recognition for you like your 2003 Arizona Entrepreneur of the Year award. How has this growth and fame impacted your life as an artist and a business owner?

"I think 'outside the box' on a continual basis, always creating new art concepts and products. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t have a new view or thought for my products. Growth and 'fame' haven’t changed me much! You can still find me working in the warehouse, helping with day to day tasks as well as creating new colors and products. Art Glitter is an integral part of me. It’s a pleasure to be here when customers come in to our retail store and ask for me. I try to always be available to answer a question or sign a book. I am quite fortunate that Art Glitter is an artistic medium in its own right, allowing me to dabble between artist and entrepreneur freely."

VIC: Television has played a large role in your success, including regular appearances with Carol Duvall and Martha Stewart, as well as spots on Home Shopping Network and QVC. How did this come about, and how did you see your business grow as a result?

© Barbara Trombley
Art Glitter by Barbara Trombley
"Television gave us national, long lasting exposure. We get so many enthusiastic calls every time one of my segments is rerun on Carol Duvall's show. And when Martha Stewart said, 'You can get all these wonderful glitter colors at art glitter dot com,' our office was suddenly flooded with orders. And it went on for months and months. It’s phenomenal how the power of television has made a world-wide impact on the way glitter is seen and used. All this exposure has led us to other avenues and industries. You can now find glitter in construction, automotive, theater, fashion, home décor, cosmetics and even sports industries these days. I’m very appreciative of the support Carol, Martha and the shopping networks have shown me. It’s been an amazing journey we never expected."

VIC: Throughout your dynamic rise as a product developer, entrepreneur and TV personality, you never lost touch with your driving motivation as an artist. How do you make time for the reflection, inspiration and time-consuming work of being a productive artist?

© Barbara Trombley
Barbara Trombley artwork
"Being an artist often requires allowing the soul and spirit of who you are to exist--in addition to the other requirements of our lives. My creative spirit doesn't start or stop or get swept away in the challenges of daily life. It just is and I accept it as just that. Whatever comes to mind. I take the time in the morning to create and sometimes finish in the evening. Art remains an important facet of my life and I couldn't maintain a feeling of fulfillment without it.

VIC: In your book, you commented on your success by saying, "Do what you love! I love art and I love color and I love creating." Where do you think those loves take the "Glitter Queen" in the future - more glitter, more books, wider distribution, or entirely new prospects?

"There is so much to look forward to! I have ideas for new variations of glitter; we have new projects under development; we have just released our new 'Dazzler' glitter line; we are considering new videos, books, and TV features. Fans have asked for weekend retreats.

"And there is a lot of teaching in the future. This year we will begin the Master Certification Program for those who want to teach 'The Art Glittering System'. Of course, I'm involved in the regular schedule of courses offered at the Art Institute Glitter, Inc. such as: the Art Glitter Lace Card 1 hour course; Art Glitter Basics 101, a 3 hour course which includes instruction on the Glitter Lace Card (Lace, Glitter), the Butterfly (Microfine Glitter) and the Dragonfly (Fantasy Film, Glitter); The Exotic Butterfly Fantasy Film Class, a 3 hour course featuring fantasy film design with Art Glitter Elements, Wire, and Beads; and Art Glitter Design with Barbara Trombley, a specialized design course for artists or individuals familiar with the basic Art Glitter techniques. The more artists work with glitter - the more they love it.

© Barbara Trombley
Glitter Butterfly by Barbara Trombley
"I would like to share with you one more piece of exciting news. I just had the most wonderful distinction bestowed upon me. One of my special pieces, a glittered butterfly painting, was hung at Cottey College. This is a very special two year independent, residential, liberal arts and sciences college for women that I graduated from before attending The College of Creative Studies. It was a glorious experience, sharing my first steps of independence at this beautiful campus with so many other talented women and fantastic instructors. My years at Cottey gave me the foundation I needed to stretch myself to become the woman I am today. I wanted so much to give something back to them and this butterfly was a creation of love. I just had to give it to them! You can find it hanging over the fireplace of the campus’ Center for Women’s Leadership building where it fits the room perfectly. This is a legacy I will be proud of forever. "

Art Institute Glitter website logo

Visit Barbara Trombley at www.artglitter.com and her blog at artglitterblog.blogspot.com. Barbara's book, Glitter Artistry: Bags, Tags and Cards, is available at bookstores, craft stores, and at Amazon.com and other online retailers.


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