Lori Cummings lives in a glass house.
A clear crystal chandelier hangs over the long dining room table, which exhibits brightly colored glass bulbs and other figurines delicately resting inside of deep glass bowls. The bulbs sparkle in the light, illuminating the wall of merchandise on the other side of the room, where necklaces, rings, vases and other glassworks peek out from in and behind display boxes. Cummings’ home is where her self-made business, Ziwi Glass, comes to light.
“I just wanted something unique for a name and decided to make up a word. To me, Ziwi is fun to say,” Cummings said. “You can’t say it without going ‘wheeee!’”
Cummings will make anything you desire in her studio — a modest room in the back with a kiln, sketch table and cutting board — as long as it isn’t too big. Anyone can visit and shop around.
“I’m still amazed I can do it,” said the 29-year-old Anniston native. She became interested in glass art when her mother asked her to take a class with her more than nine years ago.
“It’s a very hard medium to control. When it gets hot, it drips like honey. You really can’t touch it,” Cummings said.
She uses three different methods to make art: glass-fusing, glass-blowing and stained glass. Her current obsession is glass-blowing.
“It’s really beautiful,” she said with a tender look in her eyes. “When I first started glass-blowing, I dreamed for two weeks solid of just the glow. All that would be in my dreams was just that orange glow.”
Long-stemmed glass grass blades, jewels for necklaces and rings, and half-finished bowls and vases are scattered across Cummings’ kitchen and dining room tables and countertops. The fridge is covered in papers held up by glass magnets designed by the children and wife of her favorite glass artist and mentor, Cal Breed, who owns Orbix Hot Glass studio in Fort Payne. A forest-green glass bowl rests on the floor, half-full of water for her large, cuddly black dogs, Cody and Milo.
“They’re good with the glass,” Cummings said as Cody licked her hand. “The only room they’re not allowed in is my studio.”
She gestured to her feet, adorned in slender brown sandals. “All the time, I’ll step on glass. I’m bad about working barefoot and wearing sandals. I’ve gotten a lot of slivers in my feet that take days to come out,” she said.
While glass-blowing, Cummings works with heat ranging from 1,000 degrees to 2,200 degrees. However, instead of wearing gloves, she prefers to go barehanded.
“I’m trying to get used to the heat. At first I didn’t like it, but it’s grown on me. It’s kind of peaceful,” she said.
Her favorite designs are the ones that occur when you mix hot, molten glass with frit glass. Frit is chunky, gravel-like glass. The result is blown glass objects in colorful patterns. “It’s like starry nights. It’s always kind of random patterns I really like,” she said.
Four days a week, Lori works as a hygienist at the dental practice of her father, David Cummings.
“It helped me out a little bit because I was used to working with my left hand, and in glass-blowing you work with both hands,” she said. “But it also makes me nervous because I work with my hands. I don’t want to be cutting them and burning them too badly where I can’t do my other job.”
Cummings also teaches others to work with glass. She has taught fused-glass jewelry workshops at the Berman Museum of World History and Parker Memorial Baptist Church. “I have done study clubs in the past. I would be willing to do private parties and groups as well. The cost is usually $40 a person,” she said.
When she’s not working or teaching, you can usually find her making the 90-minute drive out to Orbix Hot Glass, where she works as an apprentice.
Last summer, she also attended a workshop at Pilchuck, a glass school just outside of Seattle.
“I want to learn more about business skills and improve my glass skills,” she said.
She hopes her hobby can one day turn into a profession. Her mentor, Cal Breed of Orbix, once made the list of Oprah’s Favorite Things, something she eventually hopes to accomplish, too.
“I just have to wait for the right person to notice me.”
This story first appeared in the summer 2013 issue of Northeast Alabama Living.