By Kerry Anderson
Robin Reid’s life story has much in common with her artwork: Different pieces put together create a beautiful and unique whole.
As she notes on her website, moxieandmagic.com, “I have not lived life in a straight line.”
Reid grew up in Los Angeles and New Jersey. Partly inspired by her parents’ experiences, she chose to study international politics at George Washington University. Her studies included a year abroad with the Semester at Sea program. As a young woman, she loved traveling and learning foreign languages.
After college, Reid spent four years working on Capitol Hill, in a variety of positions in Congressional offices.
“It wasn’t a good fit,” she said.
The experience led her to consider different career paths, and she decided to pursue her interest in dance. Reid never lost her interest in global affairs but also felt the pull of dance and art. She worked as a professional dancer for 15 years – including Middle Eastern and modern dance, as well as ballet – mostly in the Washington-Baltimore area. Later, Reid participated in competitive ballroom dancing, inspired by her own love of dance as well as her parents’ enjoyment of ballroom dance.
Reid moved to Alexandria after leaving her work with Congress. Her parents were then living in Alexandria, and Reid felt that the area was “convenient to everything.” As she later transitioned away from professional dance, she pursued photography, starting as an apprentice at a portrait studio. After nine years, she opened her own studio, initially converting rooms in her apartment to develop a studio space focusing on portraits and product photography.
Through the Virginia Professional Photographers Association, Reid met and then married Fil Hunter, and, together, they ran a photography studio in Del Ray. When Hunter decided to focus on graphic design, Reid ran her own studio. She also taught portrait photography for the Art League of Alexandria for many years.
Hunter, who died in 2013, was a highly successful photographer, his work appearing in for National Geographic and Life Magazine. He also was a co-author of the book “Light – Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting,” and Reid is a co-author on the book’s sixth edition. Hunter and Reid also are co-authors of the book “Focus On – Lighting Photos: Focus on the Fundamentals.”
Reid has partly retired from professional photography but continues to take portraits of officials with federal courts. She also sells impressionist photography that she calls “Dreamscapes” – including close-up photographs of flowers, Christmas lights and other things that catch her eye. Additionally, she sells a poster of Del Ray yard art, highlighting the whimsical and personal expressions of local residents. She donates all proceeds of poster sales to a local shelter for survivors of domestic violence.
Reid still lives in Del Ray, where she now focuses on fused glass art. She discovered the art form through a friend and decided to try it; she found she really enjoyed the process and now sells pieces to a variety of customers. Reid even set up a glass studio in her basement, with an electric kiln, tools and a wide range of types and colors of glass.
Fused glass is a complex process that combines art with science, requiring both creativity and precision. For example, to make one plate, Reid might use 10 pieces of glass. She cuts the glass pieces to the needed size and thickness, links the pieces together and places the piece in the kiln for nine to 15 hours. Once it cools, she removes the piece from the kiln, cleans it and shapes it before firing it in the kiln again. In addition to determining which pieces of glass to fuse and in what shape and pattern, Reid uses techniques to create even more unique designs, including “confetti” glass, chemical reactions and add-ing powders.
Reid credits the National Capital Area Glass Guild with providing training and help.
“The membership is just really generous with their knowledge, and we have some fabulous artists,” she said.
She hopes her pieces serve the dual purposes of display and serving food. Her products are food safe, though they require a bit more care than average dishes. She offers plates, bowls, coasters and more.
“My goal is that, yes, you want it on display, but then you put it to use,” Reid said.
Reid said her glass sushi sets are a popular item, and many of her pieces reflect an Asian influence, partly inspired by the years her mother lived in Japan.
“I don’t have a particular style at this point; I go in different directions,” Reid said. “I’m still learning. I like a lot of different things. Sometimes I’m in this mood. Sometimes it’s about the glass that I find.”
The color and type of glass Reid uses is crucial to the final outcome of her work. Fused glass is a craft that also depends on the right types of tools; “each one has its purpose,” Reid notes.
When she started, she felt she was good at cutting glass – until she started to encounter problems. Eventually, she realized she had worn down the running plier she used for cutting; “it never dawned on me that I would wear it out.”
Reid also has found that some mistakes – such as an unintended bubble in the glass – can be remade into something beautiful and interesting; similarly, leftover glass sometimes can be reused.
“I get some happy surprises,” she said.
Reid said Alexandria is a great place to be an artist.
“People here are really encouraging and supportive,” Reid said, adding that Art on the Avenue is a wonderful event for artists. “I love Del Ray because it’s so walkable.”
Reid’s glass work is available for sale at Made in ALX, on her website, moxieandmagic.com and at occasional other displays, such as her stall at Art on the Avenue. Her photography is available on her website and more of her work is displayed on her Facebook and Instagram, both @moxiemagicglass.