Glass artist, photographer and writer L. C. Tobey is one of the quiet pillars of the McKinney arts community. Her tiny, efficient studio is just off the back deck of the beautifully appointed home where she and her husband Tommy live in the town’s historic district.
“I moved to McKinney almost four years ago from Chicago, via Florida. Tommy and I love it here," Tobey comments, smiling.
The move to McKinney resulted in her decision to make art her full-time business.
"I majored in art and photography while attending school in the Chicagoland area. Then I turned to business because there wasn't any money in the arts," recalls Tobey. "I worked in the business sector while I put kids through school. Art was an avocation, until I came to McKinney and formulated a business plan for Dream Art Glass."
Art glass has been Tobey's passion for 20 years. One of her mentors was glass artist Robert Cooper, known for his restoration work done on the Frank Lloyd Wright Home. After moving to McKinney, she continued her education in fused glass under the direction of Michael Riffkind in Addison.
With a kiln and a plan, Tobey created a market for her art at the Farmer’s Market at Chestnut Square.
“Since 2009, we have set up at 6 a.m. almost every Saturday during the Market’s season. I like to entertain, so I created new designs for functional art made of fused glass."
With an antique door and two saw horses for a table, Tobey began to sell her flowing party dishes, contemporary jewelry, and innovative cutting boards.
"I profited enough to buy a tent...and the orders grew from week to week. I see a steady flow of repeat customers from all over DFW; my business has increased over 100% in the last 12 months."
Tobey’s artistic vision expanded to works of glass art designed to appeal to a sophisticated aesthetic. She exhibits at Orisons Art and Framing Gallery, at 110 E. Louisiana St. in downtown McKinney.
This month, her latest creations in glass and photography will be in a very special show at Orisons. The show is titled “Mother Nature: Fire and Glass,” and was inspired by the beauty that has emerged from the devastating fires in Riudoso, New Mexico.
According to Tobey, fused glass is a fascinating result of fire and heat. As exemplified by the swirling multi-piece fused glass sculpture, which is the title piece of the exhibit, heat creates the movement in the layered colors of glass, and the polished finish.
Only when it reaches a certain temperature does the glass flow. It's both technical, and metaphorical. Like a natural kiln, the fires in New Mexico had to reach a certain temperature in order to trigger Nature's re-creation process.
Among the photographs in Tobey's show, most compelling perhaps are those that capture torched tree bark infused with the fire's glow from within. Others mark ground zero, where tree sprouts emerge just six weeks after their seed pods were enlivened by flames. Already there is enough food on the ground to attract grazing animals. "This is the art that Nature created," Tobey muses.
Join Orisons in celebrating with Tobey this new body of work. Meet the artist at the opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 8 at Orisons during Historic Downtown McKinney's Second Saturday fun. Then during the second weekend in November, visit Tobey's studio during MAST, the McKinney Art Studio Tour.
In addition to creating in her studio, Tobey says "yes" to every major downtown art event and exhibit, works at Chestnut Square during the week, volunteers in the leadership of the Arts and Music Guild, and participates in the McKinney Creative Community. Her photographs have been on the cover of McKinney Magazine, for which she regularly writes. Recently, her garden glass art was the focus of a feature article in The Dallas Morning News.
In short, McKinney's thriving arts community is indebted to L. C. Tobey, and artists like her, who tirelessly cultivate the cultural richness of the town via several avenues. And she is the first to thank her cultured, artistic husband Tommy for supporting her in all her endeavors.