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.
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
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.
Barbara was fielding requests from artists and crafters for her
superior glitters. She founded Art Institute Glitter, determined
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
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."
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
in April 2010 about her glitter, her book and her life as the "Glitter
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?
"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!"
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
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.'"
We were fortunate to use your Vintage Glass Shards glitter for our
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!"
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.
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."
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?
"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!"
We'll admit it. For us, the great revelation in Glitter
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.
"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!"
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?
'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."
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?
"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."
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
"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
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
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.
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. "