The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

‘Glassygrandma’ starts small business creating glass artwork after retirement

Emma Pyatt
Diana Hanson, “Glassygrandma,” uses a blow torch to melt glass to create a small bee.

Through the south entrance of Lincoln Square, a small kiosk drowns in an assortment of colorful glass beads and trinkets, all carefully crafted by 71-year-old Diana Hanson at her in-home studio in Mahomet, Illinois. What once started as a hobby has now become something even greater.

Also known as “Glassygrandma,” Hanson has taken part in the art of lampwork for six and a half years. It involves the use of soft glass, which is melted with a torch and then shaped into a variety of different creations. It requires that the glass stay hot at all times and often works best for smaller pieces.

“I’m drawn more to it because that’s what I learned with,” Hanson said. “But also, because … I can be more creative in smaller pieces, and (I) enjoy that.”

Hanson has always been a creative person. Even before she retired from working as a physical therapist assistant, she spent decades making homemade rugs.

“I dyed my own rugs, cut my own strips and then hooked it and made rugs and wall hangings,” Hanson said. “I did that for probably 40 years. That’s when I knew that art and creativity was kind of my passion.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Hanson equates the process of dying wool to making beads but describes working with glass as “more mesmerizing.”

“When you watch that glass and you add different colors, and it swirls and it melts, there’s just nothing more fun than that,” Hanson said.

Her appreciation for the art began with the collecting of beads. While purchasing some at a shop in Mahomet seven years ago, she was encouraged by the owner to try making her own. At first, Hanson believed she couldn’t do it. However, with some encouragement, she decided to give it a shot.

“I took my first class, and my bead turned out awful,” Hanson said. “But it was just fun to watch it melt. I think I was addicted from day one.”

Making glass beads is no simple endeavor. Depending on the complexity, one bead can take several hours to make. It all begins with the melting of a glass rod, which she lovingly refers to as “glass candy.”

“It can be as simple as just doing a small little bead with no design or anything, just with the color,” Hanson said. “You can make that in 10 minutes.”

But it doesn’t end there. Everything must bake in the kiln at 960 degrees Fahrenheit for about eight hours. Once it is taken out, Hanson must take the beads off the rods to clean the insides with a tiny drill.

As time-consuming as it is for Hanson, she doesn’t charge much for her pieces since they’re simply sold to fund her hobby. There are no plans to ever expand outside Lincoln Square.

“Plus, I’m 71,” Hanson said. “I don’t really want to go into a business per se, I just want to still keep it at a fun level.”

Hanson started with glass beads, but her current catalog of items spans from glass fidget toys to earrings and other kinds of jewelry.

One of her staple products, the flower vase, costs $5. To make them, Hanson repurposes antique items to hold three flowers she makes out of wire and glass petals.

“It’s something that everyone can afford and purchase to give as a gift of anything like (a) get well, a hostess gift or I’m thinking of you,” Hanson said. “I think that’s one thing I’ll always carry as a product because it’s fun, it’s easy … it brings joy to everyone.”

Engaging with the C-U community is one of the added benefits for Hanson. Since she began to sell her art at Lincoln Square, she’s met people from all walks of life, including students at the University. She has formed close friendships with many of them.

“They’ve become kind of like my family,” Hanson said. “They’ll tell me when they have exams coming up or if they’re student-teaching, and that just brings (me) joy.”

Despite making it this far, it wasn’t always easy for Hanson. When she first started, she was a stickler for perfection. Hanson could not get the ends of her beads smooth enough and was ready to quit. However, years of practice have given her more confidence.

“There might be an imperfect flower in a bunch of ten, but it’s still pretty,” Hanson said.


[email protected]

More to Discover
ILLordle: Play now