By Connie Denney

BE INSPIRED.

BE INFUSED.

BE TRANSFORMED.

Jan Bowden spoke in all caps as she elaborated on the above words, which I had noticed on a sign as I walked by the location of Union St. Gallery, coming soon to the corner of Union Street and Nolichucky Avenue in downtown Erwin.

She spoke by phone from Ohio, where she and husband Vince had, that day, closed the deal selling property where they lived and had a gallery before moving south. But her happiness about that did not account for the level of excitement in her voice as she responded to my question about the sign. “I feel it!” she said.

An artist herself, Jan knows a person may think of art as something “I wish I could do.” If so, she advises:  take a class and be INSPIRED by what you learn.

As for being INFUSED, she talks about color, light, creativity. “Do what makes you feel happy.”  Jan says she can’t paint but that glass offered a way to use color, light and creativity.

The TRANSFORMATION, she says, comes after you make something. You’re a different person. Finding out what it takes to create an item—whether you are ever going to do it again—results in a greater appreciation.

Both Jan and Vince work in metal; Jan also fuses glass. Explaining that her husband has been welding for more than 40 years and was self-employed as a machinist/welder, she says he naturally chose metal as an art form.

“I didn’t know a thing about metal ‘til I met him,” Jan says. Now she has eight years of welding experience. Each has logged 25 years plasma cutting. (This involves cutting metal with a torch using compressed air and electricity, like “drawing on metal.” A clean way to cut metal, it has industrial and art applications.) Jan moved on to fusing or “kiln forming” glass to add color to her work. She’s been at it 12 years.

So it’s that experience they bring to Erwin, with the goal of opening their gallery by the end of July. A lot depends, of course, on the pace of readying the building. (A story in the May 5, 2018, issue of The Erwin Record included information about the gallery.)

The Bowdens will display their own work and want to add other artists’ work in the future. They do art for the garden and home including garden stakes, trellises, gates. Each is one-of-a-kind, cut by hand, not computer-assisted. Sculptures may be appropriate for wall hangings, or cutout designs welded to a base to stand alone. One such piece depicting family members holding hands will grace their home here.

Wanting to help attract folks downtown, Jan looks forward to being open for “Sip N’ Shop” the first and third Friday nights of the month. Otherwise, they plan to open four days a week, Wednesday through Saturday.

Although the Union Street building is not yet ready, plans are in the works for classes. Fused glass classes for beginners with simple projects students can complete in one session, intermediate classes mornings and evenings, something for school-age children, plasma cutting and simple welding to create a finished garden piece are all possibilities. “I have a lot of ideas in the works,” she offers.

Let’s keep an eye on that corner for signs of coming attractions.