The threads of life have woven a strikingly beautiful and brilliantly hued tapestry for one very talented and steadfastly determined Fall River couple. Their circuitous tale speaks eloquently of life’s struggles, unfailing love, sheer will, boundless creativity and of a deeply-rooted appreciation for the simple things found in life that nature has bestowed upon usgifts that most people often overlook or just take for granted.
Brian and Andrea Scholes find beauty in such things as the petal of a single rose or in the crest of a turbulent wave and turn these treasures into creative designs that serve as the basis for their stained glass work, which has won the Mason Street couple several awards, countless commissions and most importantly, the well-deserved respect of the region’s artistic community.
Their “cluttered” home is a colorful oasis located in an otherwise dull and somewhat tired working class neighborhood, an area punctuated by countless signs of life’s daily struggles. Located next to an old Episcopal church that serves as a community soup kitchen on weekends, the Scholes’ home, which doubles as a studio, is “cluttered” in a good way. It’s filled with beautiful examples of their widely acclaimed glass bowls, exquisite window panels and all-purpose boxes and other treasures that they have created in their twenty-year odyssey.
The couple began their adventure by taking a continuing education course at Bristol Community College, an experience that eventually led to a vocation for Andrea and an avocation for her husband, who still maintains his “day job” in construction. After a great deal of trial and error, broken glass, deep cuts and assorted bangs and bruises, this unique couple has arrived at a plateau from which they certainly can enjoy the view. Their accomplishments serve as an historic timeline that notes the progress that they’ve made, with “early pieces,” although beautiful and certainly unique in many ways, being overshadowed by recent “gallery” pieces that are created for museums and private collections.
Having established their studio in 1987 after several years of “exploration,” the Scholes’ career has included a brief stint instructing non-credit course at BCC and at the Providence based Learning Connection, as well maintaining countless speaking engagements throughout the region. Their message is always a simple one”The arts are thriving in Fall River and yes, it is possible to earn a living as an artist in a struggling community if you believe in yourself and your mission.”
While they readily profess not to be “born teachers” and admit that they were daunted by their attempts to conduct non-credit classes, the couple’s secondary goal is to nonetheless educate the public by serving as an example to others who wish to pursue their artistic dreams and by also revealing the real beauty that art possesses to an often hardened and jaded community.
Realizing that it’s often an uphill battle, the couple remains enthusiastic and optimistic, despite the fact that several area galleries have closed in recent months and living in a community where putting a loaf of bread on the table is far more important for most people than placing a decorative glass bowl or flower filled vase on a coffee table.
“It’s difficult to earn the public’s appreciation,” stated Andrea. “It’s hard to thrive in a community where arts are not a top priority.”
This is neither a complaint nor a criticism; simply a well stated fact. Nonetheless, the couple is determined to succeed and to carve a niche for themselves as successful artists and creators of always beautiful and even sometimes utilitarian works of art.
Like many artists, the couple admit that they are not as adept at marketing as they are at designing and producing the stained, fused, leaded and etched glass products and custom sandcarved stones that they lovingly create. Emphasizing that consignment galleries often charge as high as a forty- percent sales commission, the Scholes are constantly exploring new business opportunities and are looking for new venues in which to exhibit their work.
Color plays an important role in the Scholes’ lives. Andrea states emphatically that she “loves” color and finds excitement when working on a piece whose design features a vibrant color set against a dark background.
“I love to see colors just popping of the darkness,” she adds, illustrating her point by showing a picture of vivid lavender and purple irises set against a verdant leafy and cloudy gray background.
Fused glass bowls are one of the couple’s trademarks and are considered “hot” collectibles by those who appreciate the decorative arts. Fusing is a process that involves the coalescence of ancient techniques and contemporary designs.
The complex process involves layering richly colored glass, 23K gold, platinum and combinations of various other elements, along with sandblasted details that are incorporated to create exceptional “one of a kind” designs. Pieces are then fired, then “annealed” or cooled slowly before becoming ready for a second firing. This next step is employed to create the shape of the vessel. The glass is then placed over a mold, gradually heated to almost 1400 degrees F and is held at that temperature until it takes the shape of the mold. The piece is then annealed once again before finishing touches are made.
The process of fusing is a delicate one that takes expert skill and a great deal of physical dexterity. There is no room for errors or mistakes, with this craft being somewhat likened to the fusing of a joint by a skillful orthopedic surgeon.
As winter fades and thoughts turn to spring and gardening, individually created sandblasted stones become all the rage. Using naturally worn river stones or beautiful pieces of slate, these exquisite pieces can be used to enhance any setting. Homeowners use them as address or garden markers and these unique creations have recently become popular as memorials for beloved deceased family pets.
The Sholes pride themselves in the fact that all of their work is custom designed. They create their own patterns, except in the case where a client wants to employ a specific pattern in kitchen cabinet or doorway design. Andrea uses her artistic talents to create original designs and while she self-admittedly possesses a “contemporary” or futuristic bent, she also is highly capable of creating more traditional designs for those homeowners or businesspeople that wish something less avant-garde.
This talented couple also pride themselves in being able to offer items priced for almost any budget. Their line of gift items include stained glass bud vases, night lights, candle holders, sandcarved stone paperweights and stained glass jewelry.
Brian and Andrea Scholes are two outstanding examples of many of the gifted and fascinating people who live and work with us in the Southcoast region and who strive daily to make their community a far richer and more beautiful place in which to live. Their presence a beacon to those who wish to use their skills and talents to earn a successful living in the arts and their work is a wonderful testament to the creative process as well as being a gift that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.