Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Cat Pottery Holiday Open House - Meet the Artists: Glenda Hopp and So Many Colors

We're quickly coming up on the Second Annual Black Cat Pottery Holiday Open House on December 10 (10a-4p), during which we open up the studio to fellow local artists and all of our fans for a day of holiday cheer.  This year, we'll be featuring artisan baked goods and live music, in addition to five unique garden- and home-inspired artists.  I thought it would be nice to introduce them to you so you could get to know each of these amazingly creative and generous folks a little bit better.

A sample of one of Glenda's
hand-dyed fabrics
If you were to meet Glenda Hopp today, you probably wouldn't begin to believe the road she's traveled in her journey to So Many Colors. But then again, her experience isn't that much different from that of so many creative folks out in the wider universe. Glenda earned a BA in Social Science from Michigan State University, followed by a Masters of Arts in Vocational Rehabilitation from Wayne State University. Ten years of employment in social service followed, succeeded by  clerical work in a fast food regional office where she learned the first version of Lotus 1-2-3, tapping into a heretofore unknown passion.

Glenda at the Rust Belt Market
with some of her wares
Glenda fell in love with software, initially expressed through teaching DOS and the first versions of Windows, later while developing a talent for writing software instruction manuals and teaching business software - skills that seem sadly lacking in the current era.  She carved out a niche teaching and consulting on software designed for ISO 9000 requirements, all the while raising her son Chris as a single mother. In 2000, her employer eliminated her business unit, leading her to the realization that she could no longer work for anyone else. Ever. Again.

She and Chris started Farmbrook Designs, a creative enterprise dedicated to designing and fabricating unique, durable garden and home accents using hypertufa, a light-weight cement substitute, tapping into an entirely new side of her personality: "I never thought I had a creative bone in my body until I designed our molds for our lanterns," she says.  Glenda "retired" from Farmbrook in 2009, seeking other creative opportunities. She had always loved working with color but never thought she had an talent for it until she started dyeing fabric later that year, focusing on 100 percent cotton knits, an under-represented niche in the yard-goods market. "Seeing hand-dyed woven fabric for quilts inspired me to try something different with the low-water immersion process, getting the same sort of mottled colors, to create unique knit fabrics for clothing," says Glenda.

So Many Colors. So Many Looks. So Little Time.
In yet another example of "The Best Laid Plans", Glenda had originally intended to sell dyed yardage at sewing expos but an injured back and then ankle led to three missed shows. The resulting hiatus gave her the opportunity to reassess her creative trajectory.  She is now a permanent vendor at The Rust Belt Market in Ferndale and on Etsy selling scarves and other accessories fashioned from her unique fabrics. Cutting out the middleman, she's starting a clothing line of her own, probably to be called "Plan B" - because things don't always go as planned - coming out in 2012. "I have to do something with the hundreds of yards of hand dyed fabric!" she says - and has had interest in the clothes she's made so far.

Infinity Scarf - Green 
I first ran into Glenda the summer of 2007, at the Yule Love it Lavender Festival in Leonard, Michigan. I had met her son earlier that year but did not know him particularly well yet. It was nice to meet another member of the family and I really appreciated Glenda's dry, matter-of fact perspective on things.  I remember being particularly impressed at how she was able to just throw around those hypertufa things - I mean, they are "light weight" but they're still cement, for goodness sake!  As I got to know the family better, I realized that Glenda and her Mom lived not far from me - and I mean not far - less than a mile, I'd guess. There were times when we'd pass one another on I-94, running the stretch from Cadieux, near both our homes, to Roseville, where the Farmbrook shop was located for many years.  And although she's not directly involved with the company anymore, she does sometimes help Chris out at the occasional event, so I do get to see her on the circuit occasionally.  Glenda has always been one of the most independent people I've known - it's not easy to get her to let you help her - but she's also one of the most generous, level-headed folks in my personal universe.

Glenda Hopp
Founding Member, AARF
(American Association of Retired Fairies)
Earlier this year, we both got caught in a torrential downpour as we were breaking down at a local garden tour.  Even though she was completely finished and could have left, Glenda very generously helped me through the experience.  It was raining so hard and everything was so wet that I was contemplating just leaving the bloody tent there in that field by the Van Hoosen Farm in Rochester, but Glenda patiently helped me pack up and get me on my way.  By the time I got somewhere dry, I peeled off my jacket to see the tell-tale stains of either being caught in the rain or having a serious panic attack - probably both!  I don't know if Glenda really saved my life; it sure seemed that way at the time!

Although Glenda and her mother, Mildred (yet another inveterate cat lover!) live so near, I don't see them nearly as often as I'd like.  It's like that with family, I've found. So sometimes I drop by for a brief visit (to drop something off or pick something up, usually) after a quick call or invite them over to visit my feline family, see the latest creation I've purchased from Chris or just to enjoy the garden (Glenda, too has training as a Master Gardener). Somehow, we always have a lot to talk about when we do manage to get together.  Oftentimes, when we don't have the chance to meet "face to face", I find myself calling in to shoot the breeze as I pass the turn that would take me to their house - on my way to some other destination.  And I always have a great conversation with Glenda, about the creative process, what's happening in the garden today, dealing with cats, the crazy city situation.  And, finally, it's just about finding our own individual joy.

"One of the hardest things I've had to learn, and one of the best things, is not to struggle when your plan goes wrong. The reason behind every change in my life has been because something got in the way of my original plan. I've learned that if I don't struggle against it, new ideas and new opportunities just seem to... appear."  - Glenda Hopp

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