Ask someone what makes the communities along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast so special, and obvious answers will immediately come to mind: food, family and friends, and a laid-back lifestyle.
Above all, though, there’s something about the Bayou Region’s culture that never quite leaves a person, whether they move away or remain in the area for their entire lives.
For local glass artist Dorian Ordoyne, this sentiment especially rings true. That’s why when she saw an opportunity to bring her own artistic passion to the region’s vibrant culture, it was one she couldn’t pass up.
Dorian officially launched Phoenix Glass Art to the Houma community this summer, just months after moving back home shortly after Hurricane Ida made landfall last August. The passionate artist’s determination to introduce glassblowing to the region stemmed from an appreciation for what the art form did for her life and a subsequent desire to share that experience with a community she holds so dear to her heart.
“I fell in love with glass. It’s my passion, and it taught me so much…The world fades away, and it’s just you and the glass,” Dorian says. “I knew that I wanted to share it with the community I grew up in and give them something different to express themselves through.”
Before bringing glass art to Houma, though, Dorian’s experience living in various states with their own environments and cultures allowed her craft to flourish and grow.
A lifelong painter, Dorian’s first exposure to glassblowing came as a child when she observed women making and selling glass figurines while visiting the mall. When she moved to Miami, she began searching for a new artistic medium to try.
“I was walking through the park, and I looked up, and there was this neon sign flashing ‘glassblowing,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s it,’” Dorian laughs.
Despite having no prior experience with glassblowing, Dorian asked for a job at the studio, learned and fell in love with the art form, and took over running the studio within a year.
From there, Dorian has taken her passion across the country over the last decade, establishing studios in New York and even on Celebrity Cruises, before returning to South Louisiana.
Phoenix Glass Art serves to offer patrons an opportunity to experience the meaningfulness and memories that can accompany making their own glass creations. Through over 20 different glassblowing workshops, participants get to pick an item to create, along with a color scheme, and make the items themselves with Dorian’s instruction.
Specialty workshops allow participants to create glass objects that represent causes like breast cancer awareness and autism awareness, with a portion of profits going toward an organization or local charity that supports the selected cause. Dorian says she is always open to suggestions for causes to incorporate into these speciality workouts.
Her “From Ashes to Art” program invites people to obtain glass memorials from the ashes of loved ones or pets, either by sending ashes to Dorian or making the glass items themselves. Additionally, Dorian offers the creation of custom glass installations, tailor-made to fit desired spaces.
For Dorian, leading first-time glassblowers through workshops is the most special part of owning and operating Phoenix Glass Art.
“I know how it brings families together…They get to be free of everyday life, and they get to connect with their family in something that’s different and unique that they never did before, so it’s a unique memory that they’re creating,” Dorian says. “Especially for the kids…It gives them an extra outlet. To see a spark in little kids’ eyes – that’s priceless.”
Dorian has experienced firsthand the togetherness that glassblowing can foster for a family through experiences creating art with her unofficial business partner – her five-year-old son.
Together, the pair has created numerous pieces inspired by her son, from Finding Nemo’s Dory to the Minions from Despicable Me.
“He helps me create these pieces…We made a robot one time,” Dorian laughs. “When he was nine months old, [that was] the first time he made glass, and he made an ornament for a tree. Every year he makes a Christmas ornament.”
Dorian has also found community through connecting with other glass artists around the country – all of whom make up a small but welcoming network that shares a passion for the art form.
“I can call up mostly any glass studio all around the world and say that I’m a visiting artist, and they would tell me where to go or most of the time, offer a space for me to stay and just go into their studio and blow glass,” Dorian says.
Hailing from the Bayou Region, it’s no wonder that Dorian found her way to a community that reflects the familial culture she believes makes South Louisiana so special.
“I moved back here to bring glass, but also because I’ve lived all over the world, and I knew that the one thing I wanted my son to be raised with was southern values, and I feel like here, it’s very much different. The friendly faces, the respect for each other is just so different here than it is all over the place…so I knew that I wanted to be here,” Dorian says.
A region’s culture is just one of the primary sources from which Dorian draws inspiration for her creations, she says.
Another is a region’s environment. Miami inspired depictions of waves and marine life, while New York inspired autumn leaves.
It’s no surprise, then, that Louisiana’s unique landscape and wildlife have created their own world of inspiration.
“When I moved here, [with] the surroundings and the cypress trees, I changed my glass, so I made an oyster pearl bowl and a bayou wave vase…[The surroundings] are inspiring the glass,” Dorian says.
The rest comes from Dorian’s own personal experiences.
“I’ll have a dream about a piece that I’ll want to make, and then I’ll make it, so a lot of it is dreams, but most of the time it’s the environment, or something that happens, or my kid doing something funny,” Dorian says.
However, Dorian says she loves glassblowing the most when it lends for unexpected creations. She describes glass as “alive and moving,” becoming something an artist didn’t initially intend for it to become.
Dorian might enter a project with a certain intended appearance for a vase in mind, but the glass may not move the way she desires. What results, it’s a “happy accident.”
“It’s like a dance. The glass is always leading. You’re constantly moving, and it will lead you into creating something else, or [changing] the pattern,” Dorian says. “No other medium I’ve worked with has ever done that for me.”
Though Phoenix Glass Art is new to the Houma community, Dorian has big dreams of expanding her studio and watching it grow as more and more people give the art form a try.
For a start, she hopes to continue her passion for partnering with other local artists for materials and collaborations – a process she has already begun to implement.
Additionally, she would like to become involved with local schools to provide exciting opportunities for young students, such as a “You Design It, We Create It” field trip opportunity, where students participate in an art contest that results in the winner seeing their glass design come to life.
Above all, though, the artist wants to see more people in Houma and the surrounding communities fall in love with an art form that has impacted her life deeply.
So deeply, that after taking glassblowing to states with their own unique lifestyles and cultures, she wanted to make sure it reached the most meaningful place of all: home.
“Glassblowing is safe because of how I walk you through it. You don’t have to be artistic or have an artistic bone in your body to be able to create something beautiful,” Dorian says. “It’s so fun. It’s just amazing. I don’t have the words to express how [people] feel when they’re done. Definitely take a chance and do it.”