Evanston resident Heather Hancock spends her days creating glass mosaics in her Evanston studio.
It’s a destiny she would never have imagined for herself ten years ago when she had a much different career as a speech pathologist specializing in helping patients with traumatic brain injuries.
What prompted you to transition from speech pathology to creating glass mosaics?
As we started to travel, I saw mosaics and thought, oh my goodness, this is a powerful medium, and I thought I could do something really modern and contemporary with it.
Were you already an artist?
I didn’t draw or paint, and I never thought to pursue an art degree, but I was definitely tuned into little points of beauty—wild flowers, sunsets.
What was it about glass that made such an impact on you?
Most of my work is all about attention, and I think that’s sort of the basis of life—getting attention and holding other people’s attention, whether it’s relationships, marketing or art. Glass sustains attention because it’s dynamic. As light interacts with pieces, they change. You move position, and that piece changes.
On the surface, this looks like a radical career shift. How do they overlap?
It’s very parallel to my interest in cognition. Attention is that gateway to conscious experience. You have to attend to stimuli in order to process and interact with it. I think there’s a direct parallel to art. Why did it happen when it did? Maybe I needed that.
Has it been difficult making the transition from therapist to artist?
Moment to moment is fine, but when I’m in the studio without feedback, it can be oppressive at times. Figuring out how to generate your own momentum is tough. I belong to an interdisciplinary artists group, and that’s very helpful.
What sorts of activities do you perform on a day-to-day basis?
There are all these different steps. It’s very physical. Everything is built or cut. There are all these discrete physical tasks, which I really enjoy. There’s cutting the glass and thin-setting it, and there’s grout, which I love. You can call me a groutist.
What do you love about grout?
Is it like playing with mud as a kid? I don’t know, but it’s very satisfying! It transforms the pieces. You have to tend the grout as it dries, because if it gets shiny it’s a disaster. I’ll certainly do un-grouted from time-to-time, but I do love working with it.
How do you stay inspired?
I’m a runner, not a distance runner, but a good 40 minutes of running is very good for me. Sometimes if I’m on a treadmill I’ll look at a sketch and know what I want to do with it—things kind of gel.
Here’s a short video of Heather, her work and studio: