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Saturday, January 22, 2022
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Artist Uses Glass to Bounce Back from Chemo, Starts Art Business

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Glass bowl created by Glass Jeanne Design. | Image from Glass Jeanne Design Website

Jeanne Wattson started off her interview with Dallas Express by saying that, to her, “art is therapy rather than business.”

Her inspiration to make glass art came from a place of neural necessity. After Jeanne was diagnosed with breast cancer, she began to experience what is colloquially referred to as “chemo fog,” a type of brain fog brought on by undergoing chemotherapy.

She told Dallas Express that, according to psychological testing results, her IQ dropped around thirty points after chemo.

Jeanne says the reason she took up glass art as a hobby was an attempt to combat that brain fog. She tried out a number of artistic endeavors before she settled on working with glass, including clay, knitting, and painting.

None stuck until she learned about kiln form (or fuse) glass from a neighbor, who introduced her to the process and showed her the ropes.

Before she tried her hand at working with glass, Jeanne never considered herself artistic or creative. She was (and still is) a full-time research lab coordinator, a career she describes as “analytical,” and “black and white, where there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing something.”

To her, glass is quite the opposite. Though there are a few rules, bending those rules is what she feels makes the art form exciting. Consequently, she says learning to think creatively challenged her brain to do something different. She felt her brain had gotten lazy, especially after chemotherapy, but learning something new increased blood flow and forced her neurons to fire and form new patterns.

Jeanne says her favorite part of glass art is “the challenge and the never-ending exploration…You make something and have the idea, ‘It’s going to look like this,’ you open the kiln and it’s something totally different.”

After she began working with glass and using her brain in new and creative ways, further psychological testing showed that Jeanne’s IQ had gone up by around twenty-five points, nearly even with what it had been before chemotherapy.

Glass art has changed Jeanne’s life. “Personally,” she says, “it’s making me see the world a little bit differently. It makes me see colors and textures… [I] would not even have thought about. You start looking at the trees and looking at the flowers, looking at anything really. You kind of see more detail to it, and the intricacies of the colors and textures. It kind of opened my eyes to what the world is really like.”

Jeanne told Dallas Express that she began dabbling with glass art as a hobby in 2015 and sold her first piece in 2016 to “someone [she] didn’t know. I’d sold to people I work with… but that doesn’t count to me.”

As she became more invested in her hobby, the business aspect of her art developed organically, beginning as a decluttering effort. Jeanne says she had to start selling her pieces because she had given so many to friends and family that she could not pawn off her works on them anymore. If she wanted to continue making art, it had to go somewhere.

As a result, she started selling her artworks at art shows. People found them unique, different from other artists’ glass pieces. She herself describes her style as “whimsical and abstract.”

Her work has been featured in the Deep Ellum Art Show, Art in Bloom, and Bath House Art Mart, among others, with pieces ranging in price from $35 up to as high as $1,200 (in the case of an obelisk tower that she just sold), but most of her art is in the $250 to $300 range.

Jeanne says one of the best things about her situation is that she sells art because she wants to, not because she has to, which allows her to continue to make art simply because she enjoys it. “Making something a business, you have to really be passionate about it. For me, I want to be really careful that I don’t turn it into just a business and I’m just turning out stuff… I want to keep the passion.”

Jeanne’s advice on running a business is simple: “Take advice from all the people that have gone before you. Be willing to learn from others… that’s a big one. You can avoid a lot of mistakes [that way] ‘cause a lot of it’s trial and error…You have to talk to other people.”

She said if there were something she wished others knew, it would be this: “I hear this a lot, ‘I’m not artsy,’ ‘I’m not creative,’ and that’s not always true. You may feel that way, but once you find something that you really enjoy and you’re passionate about, you become creative. There’s something out there, so keep trying, keep looking to see something that you enjoy doing, and creativity will come.”

Jeanne’s works are available to view or purchase on her website, https://www.glassjeannedesign.com/.

Do you know a female entrepreneur who should be featured in this series? Email details and contact information to arhone@dallasexpress.org, and she could be interviewed for a piece in “She Means Business.”

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