Original article posted to the Topeka Capital-Journal June 10, 2017.
Artistic ability shown at an early age has helped Kymm Ledbetter in her life and business, allowing her to create a world for herself and the community by producing beautiful fused glass art.
“I was born with it,” said Ledbetter, designer and owner of Prairie Glass Studio, when asked about her love of art.
She grew up in Orange County, Calif., and enjoyed scrapbooking before many people knew about the craft. She has created all of her life and finds art soothing and fulfilling. Even during a recent vacation, she was sketching ornament patterns to create in her store for Christmas.
Her goal is to make her store a destination for people to come and shop for handmade ornaments and gifts.
“I always loved to make things. My dad or my mom would always take me to the craft store, and I’d buy stuff to make things. I’ve made things all my life,” she said.
Ledbetter graduated from Washburn University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. After her divorce, when her children were 3 and 5 years old, she decided to go back to college and learn more about art. She had attended college for six years and taken all of the required art classes some years earlier.
“I didn’t get a degree and still didn’t find my love, my passion. I was 34 or 35 when I was at Washburn and had a background in graphic design. I took a pottery class with Glenda Taylor, and she literally held up a piece (of fused glass) and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do the rest of my life,’ ” she said.
After graduating, she taught summer camps for children in the basement of her home and had a business for 12 years before she got her brick-and-mortar studio. Her dining room table and chairs sit in her store to give it a homey feel, like the days when she worked with clients at her residence.
“I taught about 10 years at Washburn and haven’t taught for two years. I just asked if I could teach, and Glenda told me I would need a master’s. Later she came to me and informed me she had gotten approval for me to teach the fused glass art class,” Ledbetter said.
When asked about the market for the art she creates in Topeka, she said her customers like conservative and familiar pieces, such as sunflowers. “Anything with a sunflower on it, and they also like things that function and serves a purpose, such as salt and pepper shakers, oil bottles, spoon rests, wine stoppers. All those things you can use every day. I found there’s a big need for that,” Ledbetter said.
She also creates awards and recognition pieces for the ARTSConnect Arty Awards, the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and others.
“They’re really creative. I can usually have fun with those, learn about the person and what they’re like and then kind of interpret that, so that’s cool,” she said.
Ledbetter has seven part-time employees, including her daughter, Rachel Ledbetter. “She’s very talented and creative, and she loves to paint,” she said.
Her son, Jake Ledbetter, enjoys learning anything about cars. He works on them and then sells them after he determines he can’t do any more to them as a project. “He’s probably had 25 cars at least, maybe 30, that he’s owned and sold and not made a dime on any of them,” she said.
Ledbetter recently celebrated her business’ anniversary. The store held its grand opening during the June First Friday Artwalk five years ago.
“I’m here, where I’m supposed to be, for a reason,” she said.
When asked about being in business for five years, she said, “It’s just what I do every day. You just don’t really think about it.”
People are invited to visit the store and create a small piece of fused glass that will be incorporated into a large, contemporary windmill to be displayed in the shop. The business is located in the garden level of the Historic Crane Building at 110 S.E. 8th Ave. Anyone 6 years old and up can go to the store and create art.
For information, visit prairieglassart.com.