A Conversation with Molly Sotherden, Glass Artist

Molly Sotherden’s artwork is luminescent and captivating; captured digitally, it still shines in the depths. I am in love with her work after being introduced to it through a mutual artist friend, and wanted to give her a chance to share what she does and what her journey has been like. She is currently making a living as an artist whose medium can, as she puts it, “sever an artery faster than a run of the mill vampire.” To check out some more, keep reading!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

A (Molly Sotherden): I’m a stained glass and etc artist. The “etc.” covers glass specialties not typically found in traditional art show stained glass, meaning I also work with fused, painted, and etched glass as well as the overlapping but not intrinsically “glass” things like basic wire wrapping, basic lamp wiring, and maker/hacker stuff. I started with stained glass when I was 17, my first semester in college… so that’s been at least 20 years ago. I worked for three different liturgical restoration firms after college, then hung out my own shingle around 2004 after being downsized twice in 3 years. (The first downsizing felt like my gender played into it. In defense of the second downsizing, the company I worked for was awesome and I knew when I was hired for it that the contract was finite.) But the effect those two events had on me very much influenced my choice to become a full time artist. I knew I wasn’t going to downsize myself, even though starving seemed like a close neighbor some days… I decided to quote Nike and “Just Do It”.

But that was years ago. I’m reasonably successful now, so if you’re looking for my work these days, I sell my actual items at 5 Renaissance Festivals a year. If sharing my journey as an artist is more your thing, that can be done in a “generic overview way” through either my business or personal page on Facebook, or via a more “backstage” or intimate way through a subscription site called “Patreon“.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

A: All three stained glass firms I worked for were mostly peopled by blue collar men, and in all three cases I was the only woman and (to my knowledge) college graduate in their employ on the shop floor. That was challenging on multiple levels, not least of which learning to voice boundaries when their -isms (sexism, racism, etc.) would inevitably creep into the work day. There aren’t a lot of job opportunities for a person with a degree in Fine Arts and a concentration in stained glass, so my years at those three shops were not only formative but necessary from a learning and skill-gathering perspective.

I actually started college envisioning myself as an art teacher and/or a glassblower. Teaching was the occupation of both parents and a grandparent as well, and it felt like a comfortable way to make a living, since you never really hear success stories about artists. But in my freshman year I realized I didn’t like glassblowing, and in my senior year I realized I didn’t like children in massive groups, so I dropped the teaching degree and decided to wing it with just the “stained glass fine arts thang”.

So much of my life now is what comprised my plan B when I was still trying to fit into the “normal job, normal person” modality of life (and I think that’s a really important lesson for people in general! Have a plan B, and don’t be scared if it’s not everyone’s plan B. It doesn’t have to work for everyone. It just has to work for you.) For example, I fell into stained glass accidentally – as I mentioned above, I thought I was going to be a glassblower, and when I had the opportunity in college to try glassblowing, I realized that I didn’t particularly like it. Glassblowing is a team sport, and I’m so very much a loner that I probably border on “closet misanthrope”. And then the teaching thing wasn’t my cup of tea, so I think the lesson I needed to learn was to realize how much my personality has to factor into my Plan A: I’m a textbook Virgo, and an INTJ, so I appreciate that my chosen medium has self-limiting factors and rules. It can also be a solitary medium, and doesn’t have 30 children involved, so I wandered back to stained glass, dove in, and never really surfaced after that.

Q: What in particular do you find most satisfying about your work?

A: When I make a point to dedicate time to play around with crazy stuff that may never sell because it’s too out there. (Check out the photo of my tattooed sea turtle, that’s the kind of weird shit – is it okay to say shit? Edit it out if it’s not – that I really like to do.) (IS Note: That’s not the worst thing anyone’s ever said on my blog! 😀 )

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: I make my living from selling at 5 Renaissance Festivals a year (and then from sharing my weird life over on Patreon). So not only do I make the bulk of my income in half the year, but in essence, I have two very distinct and very different jobs: I spend six months of the year just making stuff and talking to my dog, and the other six face-to-face with the general public, talking them into giving me money for my art. Those two jobs require such different skill sets that the transition between them is always super challenging. Talking to people used to be the hardest thing, but I discovered I like eating, and talking to people is less hard than not eating, so you pick your battles really. I can pass as super extroverted, but that part of my job is nearly as challenging as the transition periods, but in a different way? I don’t know if I have good words to describe that innate difference in how they’re both very challenging, but not challenging in the same ways.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: Keep learning, whether that’s taking business classes, or art classes or both, and the minute you think you know it all, hang up your brushes. Don’t be afraid of failure, because failure just means it’s an ordinary Tuesday. Imposter syndrome (wondering how in the heck you get away with being who you are and why you’re “allowed” to do what you do) is real, and the monsters get bigger and meaner the more successful you get. So make sure you have good people around to not only tell you when you’re being an asshole, but to give you targeted praise that is from people that really know you. Try not to personalize the way people interact with you if you start to become a public figure, cause those interactions are really more about what they might need on that day. As for the stained glass side of things? I don’t get many people asking about my medium as a career pursuit. That’s kind of a lonely field, honestly, which is why I answered more in a “generic art business” way, but if you’re into stained glass, and new at it, and reading this: your solder seams won’t look very good for 5-10 years, that’s normal. Keep trying, and buy a rheostat for your iron so you can fine tune it as you go.

Q: What work are you most proud of, and why?

A: You mean, other than playing with a medium on a daily basis that can sever an artery faster than a run of the mill vampire? Probably starting an art business in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression on record, and succeeding at it. The glass art is my full time job and has been for several years now. That’s not to say that I’m not immensely proud of some of the pieces I’ve made, but I know they’ll be around long after I’m dead and gone. My business exists only so long as I’m here to captain the ship – and while that’s as it should be for any artist – I guess I’m more cognizant of watching the business ebbs and flows from a front row seat? I don’t really get to see my pieces much after I sell them – or the joy they bring on a daily basis from the front row – although I do have excited customers tell me that they wash dishes while looking at my work everyday and whatnot so that’s a total win, it’s just not as present in my everyday life as, say, the business end of things.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Yes. We (meaning Americans) are not a culture that is in the habit of supporting visual artists. We can all name famous film stars and famous musicians, but we really cannot name even a handful of current and successful visual artists. I would ask anyone reading this to change that, even on a micro-level. The next time you buy something that will decorate your life, buy it from a self-supporting artist, or someone who is trying to be so. Like skip the coffee mug from some nationally recognized name brand of brightly colored and mass produced stuff, and buy an actual pottery mug from an actual potter. If we (as a culture) want people who “make stuff” to continue to make stuff, then the big-box store focus of this country needs to change.

And lastly, Rachel, thank you so much for your time and this opportunity to be interviewed.

~ ~ ~

Check out more about Molly Sotherden online:

Website: http://MSotherdenArtGlass.com
Patreon: http://Patreon.com/MSotherden
Facebook: business: https://www.facebook.com/MSotherdenArtGlass/
Personal: https://www.facebook.com/molly.sotherden



A Conversation with Josh Macias, Photographer…

I met Josh when my spouse and I first moved to Texas a few years ago. They had gone to high school together, and we finally got the chance to head down to San Antonio, enjoy some of the sights, and spend time with him and his family. When we were there, he was just getting into photography. Now, a few years later, I enjoy catching up via social media and taking a look at the work he’s doing. I invited him to come on the blog to talk about photography, and in particular, his work with Beyond the Canvas, a bodypaint-focused art project … but I’ll let him take over from here.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

A (Josh Macias): I am a photographer, for the past 10 years I’ve specialized in portraits & events. My work can be found on FB: Dreamland Studios & Beyond the Canvas.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

A: I’ve always loved looking through photos, yearbooks, fashion & travel magazines, but most of all National Geographic; those were my favorite.

Photo by Josh Macias

The first time I saw the NG cover with Steve Mccurry’s famous (Afghan girl), I can’t say that this was the defining moment that I decided “I would be a photographer,” but I will always remember how that image made me feel. It was sad, beautiful, haunting, it was so simple but captivating—the definition of a great photo.

I actually never planned on being a photographer. I was a music major—the saxophone & clarinet were my passion. I wanted to play Jazz & travel, I wanted to be a part of big ensembles & record movie scores.

But life doesn’t always pan out how you plan it. Not having a creative outlet, I spent years in a slump until I found photography.

Q: What in particular do you find most satisfying about your work?

A: To be able to create & capture a moment in time—”super cliché, right?—to be able to preserve a moment that may never happen again, to see someone smile or get emotional over a moment I captured is the moment I live for.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: [If you’re] looking to get into photography, do a little research, talk to a few photographers especially photographers that are shooting the subject matter you are interested in.

Also, gear is not everything. You don’t have to spend thousands for top of the line when you’re learning.

Advice I’m always giving for someone hoping to learn from me is, “You have to study!” I’m constantly studying. I’m good, but I didn’t start out that way; I got a D in my first photo class.

I’m always working on composition & lighting, I study & analyze lighting in my favorite movies. I save images that inspire me so that I can draw inspiration from them for future shoots.

Q: What work are you most proud of, and why?

A: For the past 4 years I’ve been the lead photographer & Co director for Beyond the Canvas which is an art organization focused on body art, or body painting, which is one of the oldest forms of art.

A normal bodypaint can take up to 6 hours to paint & may last an hour, which makes a photographer an important part of the process.

I’ve not only documented the growth of the artists & artwork of this group, I’ve contributed to the growth & recognition of this community to an international level.

Q: Do you ever work with a team? What are some things you do to make creativity work when you’re working together with people?

A: I do from time to time work with a team. I always try & put together a story board from ideas I’ve pulled from either magazines or images saved on my phone.

I will share these images with the MUA [makeup artist], Hair & model before the shoot so that everyone can get a good understanding of what I want to create.

Q: Can you talk a bit more specifically about Beyond The Canvas – where it is, how long you’ve been with them, the people, getting the right shot?

A: Beyond the Canvas is both an Art Community as well as an Organization based out of San Antonio, Tx., & its primary focus is bodyart.

The people that make up BTC are comprised of Artists (ranging from beginner to advanced), models which we call Canvases (for obvious reasons), photographers & videographers.

I’ve been with BTC for five years & the Lead Photographer for four. In that time, I’ve also taken the roll of Assistant director & Brand Ambassador, helping to create a bigger platform & more awareness to the Art scene here in SATX.

BTC holds regular paint jams & workshops where we bring in famous artists from around the world to teach.

BTC is also the host of the Texas Bodypaint Competition, a yearly contest that has grown from just a few local artists to now an international event that brings artists & performers from all over the world to SATX to compete for the title of TBPC Champion.

Even though I don’t paint, this group has challenged me in so many ways as an artist.

My method to “getting the right shot” has been with a Creative Journalistic approach. I document the process from start to finish & cannot influence the scene in any way during the painting process.

I can’t move the artist or canvas to get the shot; I have to find that candid shot to tell the story.

Once painting is over, then it’s me & the Canvas. I push them to embody the story that has just been created on their body.

The pressure of creating a beautiful bodypaint portrait is a real thing. A full bodypaint can take upwards of 6+ hours & only exists for a short time, then it literally is washed down the drain. There’s NO GOING BACK.

Bodyart portraits are a balanced equation. (Artist + Canvas)time + Photographer = X

If one of those variables is off, then the final product is mediocre at best.


A Conversation with Conrad Glover

I first met Conrad Glover in 2004 when he hired me to do some photography on the set of his independent horror film, Woods of Evil. At that time, I had done a little set photography and enjoyed it for the unique mix of aspects of photojournalism and fine art photography that capturing a work-in-progress film entails. In addition to that, I had a blast working on set. Conrad has a gift for bringing together a dedicated, talented group of people – and then working hard, but still having fun while putting together an independent project.

When I started this feature, I contacted Conrad and he agreed to talk a little about his experience, his films, and other aspects of the creative life. With tolerance for my habit of asking three or four questions at the same time, his thoughts can be found in the conversation below.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): You mentioned in your bio that you’ve done a variety of acting, writing, etc. How did you get into independent filmmaking?

On set and in character, with fellow actor Jaime Velez.

On set and in character, with fellow actor Jaime Velez.

A (Conrad Glover): My acting coach, Florence Winston, would always advise me to create your own projects and not wait on some casting director to call you in for a role. One day in class, she challenged me to write a one-act play, which I did. To her delight, she discovered that I had a gift for writing good dialogue and that I could tell a story. That lead to me going from writing one-act plays to writing screenplays, which continued for the next 8 years, helping me perfecting my craft along the way.

I had the opportunity to get my SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card in early spring of 1995 which put me on many movie sets as an actor, extra and doing stand-in work. This gave me the chance be on set for months working on various TV shows. I have to say this was my film school. This gave me the chance to watch and learn from some of the best directors in the business.

That’s when I decided I wanted to make my first feature film. So, I purchased my first camera and some editing equipment. The funny thing is, I didn’t know much about cameras or editing.  I researched and read everything I could get my hands on.  In may ways, I am self-taught, aside from what I learned from my observations.

Q: Of the movies you’ve directed and produced, which one was the most challenging to work on, and why?

A: …I have to say Woods of Evil gave me the most challenges. This was my second film and was intended to be a horror. However, of all the genres, I was least knowledgeable in horror. In trying to stay true to the genre so the film would appeal to horror fans, we did our best, but in hindsight know now we missed the boat on a few things to include suspense, and the shock and awe effect. But you live and learn, like with anything, and I am better because I accepted that challenge.

Conrad behind the camera on the set of "Woods of Evil."

Conrad behind the camera on the set of “Woods of Evil.”

Q: Who are some directors you look up to? What do you admire about them? What do you hope to emulate about them?

A: Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg.

They each take risks.  They do not do the same thing over and over – they each have an array of films in varying genres. I do not like to be pigeon-holed. I do not like to be defined by what I do. I want to be a filmmaker who will take on almost anything, if I like the project, of course.  I don’t think we grow as artists when we do the same thing over and over.

Q: Have you had any formal drama coaching or film school experience? If so, what? Do you feel that such is necessary to succeed in the field? Why or why not?

A: I began acting lessons in 1992. I felt so strongly that this is what I was meant to do, I traveled two hours into NYC, attended an hour long class with my coach, then traveled two hours back home. It was tiring but absolutely necessary as I began my career as an actor.  I trained formally with my coach, Florence Winston, until 2004, when I had to part ways for personal reasons.  A part of me wishes I never left, as I believe actors can always learn and improve upon their craft.

Is it necessary? No. There are many people in both fields that make it. Does it help? Absolutely. I think the best education is learning and watching from others, an on-the-job training, if you will. To an extent I believe the industry undervalues the formal education and formal experience when it hires people because they have a name versus having any credible training or background.

Although Hollywood may be the entertainment capital of the world, I truly believe American filmmakers and actors could benefit and learn from their European counterparts.  I find European actors to value their craft by studying it and placing a huge value on the stage experience. Stage work makes you a better actor, I truly believe. European filmmakers fall outside our cookie-cutter mold. Sure we have a few, some of whom I mentioned above, but for the most part, our filmmakers cater to the studios’ idea of what a film should be – I call it sanctioned censorship because the artists lose their independence and creative control. But, they have the money.

Q: When an actor/actress comes in to audition for a role, what are you looking for? Do you have any tips for people who are just starting to audition – or perhaps have been auditioning without success?

A: It is important for the person to be true to the character and live in the moment. The person has to become that character, in every way – voice, expression, mannerisms. This is why a person can gain much from formal training.

Q: What is one of the most satisfying parts of being an independent filmmaker?

A: I never lose creative control.

Production still from Woods of Evil, with Jaime Velez and Christopher Farmer.

Production still from Woods of Evil, with Jaime Velez and Christopher Farmer.

Q: If you were to assemble your dream cast and crew to produce your next film, who would be some of the names on the marquee?

A: Daniel Day Lewis, Gary Oldman, Giancarlo Esposito, Obba Babatundé, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis are a few.  There are many I admire and respect and with whom I would love the opportunity to work.

Q: Do you have other creative outlets besides filmmaking? If so, what are they?

A: I also write novels. I love to read and essentially keep the creative side of me busy. Recently, I got back into the gym and this helps me re-group.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

A: I am working on a few projects – they are in development at the moment. I hope to make one later this year.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: You live life once so it’s important you live it to the fullest.  Pursue your dreams.


Find out more about Conrad’s future projects – “like” Joco Films on Facebook!