Merritt Holdcraft — creator of modern and beautiful glassworks.
M.A.D. by Merritt is helmed by Merritt Holdcraft — an Art Academy of Cincinnati graduate with a BFA in painting and minor in sculpture.
After taking a glass-blowing elective her freshman year, she fell in love with the medium and worked with some great glassblowers at River City Works while studying at the AAC and later at Brazee Street Studios.
"I worked one day every week for three years (at Brazee Street Studios) and then bam, Brazee's hotshop closed it's doors in January 2016 due to funding. A friend had told me about some guys down in Americus, Ga. making these things called Dragons. I could not believe my eyes when I saw what a Dragon was: A mobile glassblowing studio!"
"My husband and I traveled to Americus in March of 2016 to witness the Dragons in action. It was everything I had been dreaming about; I knew the Baby Dragon would one day be mine. We completed my M.A.D. Hotshop in July of 2016 and the first fire was monumental on September 2. I feel so blessed to be able to have one of my dreams become real."
She's been selling her glassworks at art shows and online since graduating from the AAC in 2012.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Georgetown, Ky with two older sisters and a twin brother. We all like to push each other to do better but at the same time we are always there for encouragement and support. We were able to grow up watching my father create murals, props for libraries and schools, painting bookmobiles and basketball floors, basically anything he could get his magical hands on.
When it was time to decide where I would like to college I knew I wanted to create so I chose the Art Academy of Cincinnati. I graduated in 2012 with a BFA, majored in painting and minored in sculpture.
Have you always had an interest in glasswork? Do you have a specific memory where you had a bit of an "aha" moment? Like where you thought, "Wow. I really love doing this?"
Before attending the AAC I didn't even know glassblowing existed! I was picking out my courses and my advisor told me I had some credits so I was able to choose an elective course. While looking through the classes, “Intro to Glassblowing” caught my eye. The first day I arrived at River City Works, not knowing what to expect. I walk in and there are giant pieces of equipment that sound like they’re growling. The way the glass moved and glowed was nothing I had ever seen before. It was love at first gather!
Do you remember the first glasswork you made?
The first figure my classmates and I made was a pony. We learned later on in the year that if we got in trouble we had to "pull ponies." The first glass piece was a clear cup — it was small but I was on top of the world with excitement. I gave a lot of my first pieces to my parents.
What's been the best customer reaction you've had?
The best reaction I got from a customer was from a woman that came by my booth during a show and went straight to a vase, she asked some questions but then set it down and went on her way. It wasn't even five minutes and she ran back to the vase and says, "I just can't live without you (the vase)!"
Is this a full-time gig for you?
M.A.D. is not a full time job yet. My parents, siblings, husband and friends have been nothing but supportive. When I told my family I wanted to get a mobile glassblowing studio and build a hotshop in my backyard, I think they thought I had truly lost my mind. When they saw my progress and then the completion of my hotshop summer of 2016, they are so excited to see where M.A.D. will go next!
What inspires you or where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration to create hand-blown glass, handcrafted cards and abstract paintings are the different processes. The only thing they share is a beginning idea and the completion of a piece but the in between is such a fun journey for all three mediums. I would also say I like to push myself to do better and learn something new each time I create by either trying to form a different shape out of glass, trying to have a steady hand while outlining a watercolor card or throwing an unexpected color in a painting. At the same time my favorite part are those happy accidents when something happens that you can't really explain.
Can you tell me a little bit about your process?
My process for creating a glass piece consists of turning on the dragon about 3-4 hours before I plan to work. When the glass is melted and at a working temperature — usually around 1,500 degrees — I then clean my tools and get ready to work. I decide what shape I want — either a vase, bowl, paperweight ornament or pumpkin. I chose what color frit, which is colored glass that ranges from size 00-5. Then I'm ready for my first gather of glass and starter bubble. The next steps will differ depending on what shape I'm making. The final step is placing the finished piece into the annealer.
What was one of your biggest failures and how did you overcome it?
I would have to say my biggest failure would be being too hard on myself. For example, during the spring and summer seasons I try to do as many art shows as I can afford to attend but some aren't as great as others. With the not so great shows I would become negative Nancy but my husband helped me snap out of Nancy's mindset. You will have great, good, OK and not so good shows. That's the risk all artist face when showing their work: some people will love it and some won't.
What's your dream for MAD?
My dream for M.A.D. is to have a storefront with studio space where I can offer classes or rent out studio time for local glassblowers.
What phrase or motto did you live your life by?
My motto would be to enjoy life. It's the only one you get!
Shop the entire MAD by Merritt collection here.