A Creative Second Career Fulfills Passion for Discovery
By Cathy Hollander
- “Grand Circle”
- Risa at work
- An orange wall panel
- Risa’s black, white and aqua plate
- Artistic piece “Baby Blue”
- Risa’s first project—”20 Plates”
- Risa Sreden Prince and Mark Prince
- Risa Sreden Prince
“My interest in glass is a throwback to my childhood,” said Blue Ash resident Risa Sreden Prince.
Before becoming a glass artist, she worked for Fortune 500 companies for 15 years and then opened her own business, Trailers America, selling fully-equipped emergency first-responder units and cargo trailers.
When her children graduated from Sycamore High School and left home, and her Trailers America business was winding down, she and her husband began seeking a retirement plan. To her, retirement is about first answering the question whether you fulfilled what you wanted to during your work life. Now, she wanted to do something creative.
“I believe everyone has a passion,” said Prince. “You try stuff and figure out what yours is. I tried other artistic endeavors, and then I tried glass. That felt right.”
As she was growing up, she loved going with her father, who was a metallurgical engineer, to the glass and metal manufacturing company that he managed in Mexico City.
“My father produced glass objects encased in metal which were really cool,” said Prince “I remember being a little kid and seeing these guys with hot glowing molten glass at the end of these pipes. They were red then, in the end, they were blue and I had no idea how this transformation could happen. I thought it was magic. When I grew and began looking for something artistic, glass became a natural medium for me.”
The glass became amber, blue and green drinking glasses, lighting fixtures, and other functional objects.
Working with kiln-formed glass fit her need for freedom and flexibility while furnace-based glass would require more people to help.
“It’s really hard, but I always love the challenge,” said Prince. “Opening the kiln is like opening a present. You never know what you’ll find.”
Prince is always exploring new ideas and techniques. Her work with refuse glass began when someone offered her a batch of old windows from a downtown building. Now, she takes discarded sheets of glass and cuts them up. She recombines them to become functional objects. This is a form of recycling. Old panes of window glass become platters, trays, and bowls.
F2O is her line of fused functional objects for daily use. She adds color to recycled glass using enamels and ground up bits of glass.
“I had not seen anyone doing work exactly like that before,” said Prince.
She needs to use enamel that is compatible with the recycled glass. There’s technical skill to combining glass. The wrong kind of materials can cause stressors in the glass. It can crack and not hold up. The piece can shatter. Fortunately, Prince’s undergraduate degree is in chemical engineering.
“You have to be careful when putting any additives in the glass. You need to understand the working characteristics of the glass from the variety of manufacturers. Glass is a wonderful combination of my technical background and the creativity that comes from trying to put together images in it. I love doing abstract images.”
For some of her custom glass pieces, she combines her husband Mark Prince’s photography business with her glass to make pieces with photos printed on glass. Mark Prince uses a portrait he takes, or an existing one provided by the client, and prepares the image for printing.
Risa Prince’s custom line of glass jewelry came from her own needs for certain colors and one-of-a-kind looks to go with a certain dress or an outfit.
“I travel a lot,” said Prince. “I make necklaces that you can add or remove pieces from, so you can mix and match to combine and create different looks with one necklace.”
Custom glass pieces are available upon request. She is happy to design specialty glass to her customer’s taste, budget and décor.
Her next step with glass is a big one. She and her husband purchased a second home in Hilton Head. She plans to experiment with the changing patterns of beach sand by casting plaster molds of the shapes carved out by the water on the sand.
“As the tide goes out, you’re left with all these interesting wavy sculptured sands,” said Prince.
Using a kiln to slowly heat the glass, she will “slump” it into molds. Resting the flat glass on the mold, it will melt into the shape of the mold. She uses PPG glass, a brand of architectural glass that offers a huge variety of greens, blues and grays and some with reflective coating.
“This series should really speak to ocean and beach,” said Prince. “I am still enchanted by the dualities of glass—solid/liquid, transparent/opaque, smooth/textured.”
RPM Galleries is a combined effort of Risa and Mark Prince. The name is derived from their initials as they would appear in a marriage monogram. For more information, call glass artist Risa Sreden Prince at (513) 290-5141 or photographer Mark Prince at (513) 289-7174. Their gallery is at Essex Studios.