MEET OUR MAKERS: A profile of beach glass artist Tracy Smith-Dengler

Meet Tracy Smith-Dengler. By day she toils as Manager of the Central Business Office for the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES. But in her off hours she makes stunning, one-of-a-kind creations featuring Lake Erie beach glass.

Smith-Dengler fashions unique lampshades, vases, ornaments and decorative items from her finds and gifts them to friends and loved ones. There is something suitably poetic about repurposing random chunks of smooth glass discovered among the beach detritus then creating something useful and beautiful before re-introducing it in its new form.

She says she likes to put her art back out into the world, and has joined the organizers of the upcoming Fredonia Mini Maker Faire to help inspire a legion of local Makers.

“Most of the time I try to stay under the radar with my making,” said Smith-Dengler. “But I’d like to help us grow our Maker Faire and encourage others to participate.”

It might surprise you to learn Smith-Dengler isn’t a lifelong artist. In fact, she got her start less than a decade ago in an effort to honor the memory of a beloved friend who left behind an impressive collection of beach glass.

“It’s never too late to start learning something that really grabs you,” said Smith-Dengler. “I was already in my mid-40’s before I ever gave my craft a thought and have only been doing it for about five years. I find myself amazed at what I’ve learned and how far I’ve taken it in just that short period of time.”

Mourning their mutual friend, Smith-Dengler and a pal enjoyed some wine while reminiscing and brainstorming ways to keep her spirit alive through her love for beach glass. Eventually, a group of friends decided to take an art class to learn and explore ways to utilize the beach glass. It wasn’t for everyone, but Smith-Dengler was soon immersed in the pursuit of a new passion and hasn’t looked back.

“Once you find the thing that really excites you, you’ll find a way to work it into your life – regardless of all other constraints,” said Smith-Dengler.

Spoken like a true Maker.

MAKING IT HAPPEN

The inaugural Fredonia Mini Maker Faire, which is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, is slated Saturday, Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the campus of Fredonia. A variety of Makers will be sharing their talents in The Science Center and The Williams Center. You can meet Smith-Dengler there, admire her artistry and perhaps find your passion, too.

The event is a collaboration of Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, MAKE magazine and Fredonia along with the generous support of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, the Chautauqua County Region Community Foundation, the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Library System, Lumsden McCormick LLC, Kensington tech supply, Dell and the Phyllis and Lawrence Patrie Endowment for the Sciences.

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