Writer Lara Piu
Photographer Scott Baxter

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ll that glimmers is art for Tramonto mixed media pro, Jacqui Ridley.

She uses stained glass, jewels, pearls, vintage gems, metals, golds, pearls, Swarovski crystals, semi-precious stones, beads, confetti glass, rhinestones and (take a breath) anything that sparkles to create her art. The end result is an invitation to her glimmer-glow world.

“I love different textures, patterns and colors, and incorporating all of that,” she explains. “It’s therapeutic for me to fit the pieces together and see how they flow. There is no right or wrong way. There’s a lot of freedom in that. The pieces tell you where to go.”

Jacqui choreographs the materials and their bright fuchsia, black, copper, gold, blue, red, green and other gemstone-inspired colors to unify in a harmonious symphony that culminates the form of wall art and glass squares and circles.

“It usually starts with strands of pearls that throw on the surfcgance I’m working on,” she adds. “And then inside the sections is where she makes the patterns from there it’s just spontaneous patterns that I create on the spot.”

Jacqui spends most of her time creating commissioned, larger-than-life public works of art and architectural installations. Currently they’re on display in hospitals, schools, religious buildings and other public areas in her home state of Michigan.

“Unless it’s a commissioned piece, there’s no planning,” she adds. “I have the colors and an abstract idea in mind. I gather the beads, fabric and metals and then I start free flowing.”

Inspired by embroidery and contemporary quilters, Jacqui likes to interpret fabric through mosaics. She recalls the time she gained permission to interpret Paula Nadelstern’s famous “Shards” quilt.

“Shards is a mosaic term which caught my eye,” she explains. “It was one of the first intricate quilts, and it almost looks like glass. The jewel-like design of [Paula’s] quilts and the intricacy of her threads were perfect. That kind of work inspires me a lot.”

Jacqui reports that Paula loved it, “and it was a really fun project interpreting quilt in glass,” she adds.

Her art, which comes in a wide arrange of sizes, has a corresponding price range. A 12-inch piece might sell for $350, while public installations are commissioned for around $50,000, depending on the size and intricacy.

“The work is so tedious, and it’s very time consuming,” she says. “It takes an average of one hour per two-inch spot. Some pieces take months.”

Currently, Jacqui is working on a 12-foot by 8-foot commissioned floral piece for the lobby of the mother/baby wing at St. Joe Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. The wall will take her at least six months to create.

And she’s happy to create it in her new home. She and her husband moved to North Phoenix nearly a year ago to escape Michigan’s cold winters and to be closer to family.

“We were just done with winter and we didn’t want to do it anymore,” she confesses.

The move came on the heels of her invention of GlamGrout, an artistic grout alternative Jacqui created out of necessity.

“I had a critical case of hives which lasted a year,” she recalls. “I went to every doctor and finally we discovered that I was allergic to grout.”

It was easy for Jacqui to give up the binding material. “I never liked grouting anyway, and with me working with very tiny beads, it would take hours and hours to clean grout. It was horrible.”

For several years, Jacqui experimented with ingredients that would work in tiny and large areas until she came up with a formulation that worked.

“I’ve received great responses from mosaic artists,” she says of her Etsy store launch. “There are no fumes; it’s easy to use; it’s non-toxic; it leaves no mess; and it adds color, texture and sparkle to your mosaic and fabric work.”

And in an effort to make friends, Jacqui opened up her home studio for art classes. When she posted her class online, an overwhelming 70 people expressed interest. Today her students are an even more meaningful extension of her work.

“We’ve become great friends,” she says happily. “They were looking for something creative and a chance to meet people.”

Everyone who takes her class becomes part of her art community and is inducted into what they lovingly call the “glam squad.”

“I love the teaching part. It’s really fun,” Jacqui adds.

More information on Jacqui’s next class is listed on her website.