WALNUT CREEK -- Polly Bradbury knows that whatever path life has for you will eventually lead to your passion. You just have to learn how to read the signs.

As a kid, Bradbury -- who grew up in Walnut Creek -- was the only one her mom could count on to create art on a rainy day. She dabbled with pen and ink, colored pencils, paints, macramé, life drawing and, as a teen, took ceramics at Civic Arts Education. While she took on a "grown-up" career as an interior designer, creating art was never far from her mind.

So Bradbury went back to school, taking classes at California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she became smitten with a new art form.

Walnut Creek glass artist Polly Bradbury, whose work is currently being shown as part of the "Virtuosity Goes Viral" show at the Lafayette Art
Walnut Creek glass artist Polly Bradbury, whose work is currently being shown as part of the "Virtuosity Goes Viral" show at the Lafayette Art Gallery.

"I had a class in the building the 'glass class' was in. I had to walk by the glass department on my way to the restroom. I would stop and watch them blow glass," said the Northgate High School grad. "I'd never been exposed to glass work before."

She saw this encounter with glass as a sign to focus on this medium. "I really enjoyed learning how to blow glass," she said.

So great was her passion for glass that Bradbury and some fellow artists cofounded San Francisco-based Public Glass in 1997, giving artists a facility to do glasswork as well as offer classes in blowing, casting, fusing and flameworking.

"When I graduated, I thought, 'What's everyone going to do while waiting tables? How can you afford equipment, especially a furnace and a kiln? Local glass artists and patrons of the arts gave us seed money to get us started and 15 years later, Public Glass is still thriving."

Public Glass also gave artists like Bradbury a chance to offer community outreach art classes for kids from families of limited means.

She put glass work on hold to raise a family, not resuscitating her passion for glass until about a year ago. But after creating vessel after vessel, Bradbury thought of mixing it up a bit. Soon, she figured out how to combine metal and glass.

Bradbury's work, on display at the Lafayette Art Gallery, is a testament to her affinity for simple shapes and forms.

"I'm drawn to simple shapes -- shapes that are symbolic in ancient civilizations and speak to me on a subliminal level," said Bradbury, a member of the Walnut Creek Arts Commission.

She said kiln-formed glass enables her to capture the fluidity of the glass while it is melting--kind of a freeze-frame snapshot.

"We went to Stinson Beach and I found these rocks shaped by the ocean ... these beautiful, undulating shapes with holes that grew right through them," she said.

The beach provides a wealth of inspiration for Bradbury, who likes to sketch random shapes she encounters and then use them for future pieces.

"I like shells that are broken away. You can see the inside as well as the outside of the shell."

Imperfect organic shapes formed by nature inspire her to experiment blending color into the glass so the viewer may enjoy not only the exterior but also the inner beauty of the glass piece, she said.

Each piece Bradbury creates represents a story or a philosophy of her life. She calls a series of pieces "Going Back, Moving Forward," because "I have gone back to exploring shapes and ideas that have always intrigued me, as well as after many years of raising kids I am making sculpture again."

For example, the meaning behind the piece "Seeing Inside" comes from the adage, "There's more than meets the eye."

"Sometimes in life you need to work a little harder to see what is inside to find the treasure," Bradbury said."You often get a glimpse of it from the outside but the beauty is often distorted."

Glass artist Polly Bradbury
  • WHERE: Lafayette Art Gallery, 3420 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite A
  • INFORMATION: www.pollybradburydesigns.com