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Life Arts

Reflections from a Sun-Catcher

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 11/9/09

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The delicate cobalt-blue glass of the sun-catcher sparkled, reflecting tiny rays of blue light onto the floor. Inside the circular glass, a young mother tightly cradled her newborn baby. Only a bare thread of fishing line held the glass disc in place as it hung from the frame of the window. Luann Gilliland took the sun-catcher down from the window, sliding beads from the top of the fishing line to rest against the frame of the sun-catcher. One by one, she added blue glass beads and pearls to complement the beauty of the blue glass. "It was like a second part of my brain woke up," Gilliland says.

But the inspiration for her art pieces came from the simple act of turning one recycled disc, too beautiful to stand alone, into an elegant sun-catcher. Her talent emerged as she placed beads on the thin piece of fishing line, one by one. Instead of just the glass reflecting in the sun, the beads now added a swirl of light to the floor, accenting the cobalt glass where the young mother held her child closely. "I knew I was drawn to different things made of colorful glass but for me to actually create it, no, I didn't expect that. That was an unexpected pleasure," Gilliland says.

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The sun-catcher was the first beaded design Gilliland created over 10 years ago. But even before she discovered her beading talent, she found interest in her mother's art. "My mother was artistic, so I was always drawn to whatever project she was working on," says Gilliland. Her mother never created the art Gilliland makes with beads, but she produced other art projects that Gilliland found intriguing. "She never worked with beads, but she boiled marbles and made little pictures and sculptures. She dabbled in something called liquid embroidery which was a pre-cursor to fabric paints, and I helped her those projects," Gilliland remembers.

Before Gilliland experienced her first epiphany with beading, her childhood dream was to work in the field of medicine. When she entered high school, she became aware of the field of medical laboratory technology. She graduated from the College of Steubenville, now known as Franciscan University, in 1974.

She currently works as a medical technologist in Geisinger's Chemistry Lab--but beading is her relaxation and inspiration. "When I'm beading, I'm inspired by the sheer beauty of the raw materials. Once I sit down at my bead table, it's hard for me to get back up." she says.

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Gilliland donates some of her designs to many organizations, including EOS Riding Center, Bloomsburg High School, St. Columba Church and several Bloomsburg University organizations. One of her first donations was with La Leche League. For 12 years, she volunteered her time as a local La Leche League leader, and also volunteered at both a state and national level. At one annual conference, she displayed her beadwork for the first time. "This opportunity gave me confidence that people loved my beaded designs and were willing to pay for them," Gilliland says.

Gilliland's designs now include necklaces, bracelets, earrings, lanyards--and sun catchers. She uses a variety of beads, including lampwork glass, Czech glass, and porcelain beads. Each piece of jewelry has its own story; each piece is uniquely created using some of the best beads from around the world.

Gilliland's favorite bead is a vintage bead that is no longer produced--a Swarovski Givre crystal. It is a clear crystal bead, round, and faceted, and it has a swash of color running through it. "The color that I prefer is a light aqua but they also made it in light blue, light pink and white," says Gilliland. The beads were designed in the 1940's and 1950's. The beads are only available through vintage dealers or in vintage jewelry found through state sales and auctions.

Gilliland's focal pieces give her the inspiration for the beaded design. In Gilliland's symmetrical designs, the focal piece is the center bead of the necklace where the eye is most attracted to. She uses colorful yet complicated pieces of focal art and accents these with matching beads. "My strength lies in allowing the focal bead to take precedents by adding just the right combination of color and texture to enhance its beauty. I can't make the beads themselves, but I can feature them beautifully in one of my designs," says Gilliland.

One recent necklace Gilliland designed had the focal point of three leaves made of raku pottery. The leaves were created to reflect the colors of autumn in their design. Gilliland had ordered these beads from a mother/daughter partnership located in the western United States. "It's a sad story," Gilliland says. "These artisans had a fire in their studio." Because of their ethnic background, they believed they needed to move on from this business and discontinue the making of the beads after the fire.

Some other unique materials Gilliland uses are recycled glass discs. These glass discs are similar to the first sun-catcher that inspired her art. She has never made two items the same, with the exception of her personalized mother's bracelets. "Everything I make is one of a kind; each piece is beautiful in its own special way," says Gilliland.

[Gilliland's work is currently featured at Framing by CJ gallery, located on the corner of Market and Eighth streets in Bloomsburg.]

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Tiffany Bellum is a Journalism major at Bloomsburg Univeristy who is hoping to work with a political magazine.

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Reflections from a Sun-Catcher