Light has always been Tracy Silva Barbosa’s inspiration, as an artist and as a business owner, and glass is her means of expression. “There’s a poetry in it,” she muses. “I have always felt that glass has poetry.”
Barbosa runs Duende Glass, her custom glass art consultancy and creation business, from a showroom at Hatch Street Studios in New Bedford. In addition to special projects for individual homes, Barbosa works with builders and architects on public and corporate commissions. Finished products include doors, walls, and tabletops.
In a wide range of processes including stained, cast and rolled glass, her specialty is a style she describes as “ethereal and painterly.”
“That’s where I excel,” she notes, “soft glass that’s got layers of etching and has a glow to it.”
Much of Barbosa’s imagery includes imprinted scenic views, such as birds soaring over industrial constructions. In addition to tapping her admiration for the perspective in Oriental landscapes, these designs are often directly inspired by her dreams.
“I have dreams that different locations merge,” she explains. “I will be walking around my hometown, and then it will turn into another place. Or plant life from different places will mix together to create a new place.” This fluid sense of environment seems to find its perfect expression encased in the sensuous medium of glass.
Barbosa’s connection to light dawned on her growing up in Taunton. She remembers an early appreciation for the sun shining through panes in a way that transformed the architectural elements around her.
“Growing up as a child of Portuguese immigrants, church was a large part of our lives,” she says. “I had no exposure to art other than the stained glass windows in my church. It wasn’t the religion, it was the craftsmanship that struck me. Looking at the light through the glass, that always just captivated me.”
“Another heavy influence of my childhood was old New England style windows,” she continues. “In my own home, being a very old construction, all of the character and the irregular panes in the windows would look liquidy at certain hours of the day. The light passing through that glass was just magical.”
Her aesthetic senses awakened, Barbosa went on to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. “Mass Art has one of the most extensive glass programs in the area, so I was able to get right in there.” Here she practiced a wide range of techniques including cold glass, polished glass, kiln glass, and printed glass.
After college graduation, Barbosa moved to Oakland, California, to work for John Lewis, a site-specific glass consultant with a national reputation. Here she expanded the skills she had learned in art school and gained experience that laid the foundation for her own business.
“We did a lot of really big architectural-grade projects,” she says. “I learned so much about reading blueprints, communicating projects, and creating things that did not exist anywhere else, that have to withstand weather and time and light. There is this permanence that you have to consider when you’re doing three-dimensional sculpture.”
Among the projects she contributed to was the Field of Empty Chairs memorial in Oklahoma City. “We made those in 2000, so they have been up there almost 20 years without a crack,” she remembers. “It still looks great!”
Barbosa returned to Massachusetts, then started Duende Glass two and a half years ago. The company’s name comes from a term coined by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. “‘Duende’ translates from Spanish into elf or tiny demon,” Barbosa relates. “There is a playfulness in duende that’s taking glass and adding the unnamable essence that makes it special.”
It’s a complex journey to usher a job from its planning stages to the completed product. “The process from idea to finish can range from two to 40 years for certain projects,” says Barbosa. “So in the turnaround of me meeting the architect to the project coming to fruition, there’s a delay.”
The first stage is a consultation to translate what the customer wants into a proposed finished product. “It depends on what the client is suggesting and what I see in their heart,” she reveals. “We go back and forth on textures and speculations on size and thickness.”
Once details have been determined, then comes the manufacturing step, which Barbosa clearly relishes. “It’s fun to work with big glass companies because I am kind of pushing their limits into unconventional combinations of techniques. But they have all the tools, and I have this artist’s mind that comes in and pushes their envelope. The proof is in the pudding, and we create something that’s really cool.”
One of Barbosa’s favorite projects has been her recent “House of Glass” at Haskell Public Gardens in New Bedford, funded by grants from the city’s Local Cultural Council and the United Way. The installation involved adding jewel-toned panels to a spacious greenhouse on the property.
“It’s this surprise when you’re walking the grounds,” Barbosa says with a smile. “You don’t expect to see color like that.”
Another favorite assignment was the stained-glass privacy window she created for a new mammography unit at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Connecticut. The design featured pink ribbons floating through the air.
“So the women who are waiting for their exam, they have privacy, but the light comes through,” Barbosa details. “It feels like somebody cared when they designed the place. It helps patients feel like they are being taken care of, and it shows the employees that they are doing something special.”
Among Barbosa’s current works in progress is the creation of glass railings for Encore Boston Harbor, a new luxury resort and casino in Everett.
Duende Glass is a perfect blend of Barbosa’s free-spirited imagination and her solid technical expertise. “I enjoy the promise of creating well-designed glass that fits into a structure and has an emotional impact,” she says. “I enjoy creating things that will outlast time and the elements.”
Duende Glass is located in Studio 306 at Hatch Street Studios at 88 Hatch Street in New Bedford. A portfolio of projects is available at DuendeGlass.com. Tracy Barbosa can be reached at 508.971.3223 or email@example.com.