Making art by hand has always been important to Washington, DC–area designer Jill Tanenbaum. She went to college for a studio art degree before going on to earn her master’s in publications design. As a designer she always made it a point to incorporate bespoke art into her client work. “I think that there’s nothing that can say more about a brand than customized art,” Tanenbaum says.
Though she was creating artwork for her day job, running an eponymous design and advertising firm, she still sought other creative outlets. This led her to fused glass—the process of using a kiln to join together pieces of glass into sculptural masterpieces. “I wanted an outlet that didn’t require answering to a client, a hobby where I could do exactly what I wanted to do,” Tanenbaum says. “Working with glass is magical. The beauty and transparency of the colors and the variety of ways that I can create art with glass is unlike any other medium I’ve worked with.”
Over the next few years, fused glass continued to be a hobby. But when the economy turned and client work started to slow for her in 2008, she realized her side project could also prove to be a source of income. She launched Creative Glass Design in 2011 after building a studio in her home, where she creates original work and custom pieces and also teaches classes.
Since then, Tanenbaum has found that this outlet has not only provided for her financially but also ignited her creativity. “I feel more free in my glass world,” she says. “Even when I’m hired to do a customized piece, my clients totally trust my decisions. In my graphic design world, I’m more restrained.” The opportunity for unrestricted ingenuity in glass work has benefited her design projects in myriad ways, such as inspiring her to experiment with colors and bold graphics. “One [outlet] seems to play off the other,” she says.
As a designer who has created work for a variety of clients including USPS, AOL and Johns Hopkins University, Tanenbaum has come full circle in her career. After all, it’s that love for unbridled artistry that got her started with graphic design in the first place.