By Kristen Andresen

Saturday, May 13, 2006 - Bangor Daily News

It all started with a necklace. ShopGuy returned from London a few years back bearing the most striking piece of jewelry I'd ever seen: a clear rectangle of glass, fused together with tiny filaments of metal embedded between the layers, suspended on a fine wire.

So began my obsession with glass jewelry. There's something about the luminosity, the hue, the vibrancy of glass that fascinates me. And since I'm always looking for that one piece nobody else has, handmade beads, pendants and earrings fit the bill.

They also fit my budget. You can find expensive glass pieces, but usually they're very affordable. Hunting them down is an adventure - some of my favorite necklaces come from Ingrid's German Shop, which carries a full line of Antica Murrina glass from Venice. ShopGirl Jr. bought me a chunky glass bracelet from Target. A colleague has a stunning ring that she picked up at T.J. Maxx. I even bought an elaborately beaded necklace from Claire's at the Bangor Mall.

But in my travels, I've found some of the coolest jewels are made locally. As in, my backyard. A couple of my neighbors in Orono, John Hackney and Virginia Whitaker, started making lampworked glass pieces a while back and they're fabulous. I have a glass heart pendant and have bought their beads, sold individually for $3 to $10 apiece, at The Store-Ampersand. But for lobster lovers, I recommend their pot buoy earrings, which are $18 a pair. The couple will custom-make the earrings to match your tastes - or your real-life buoys. For information, call 866-2467.

Also in my neighborhood is a woman whose work I've followed for years, Lisa Colburn. She creates boldly colored earrings with dichroic glass, a shimmery material originally developed by NASA, but she's known for her Wild Woman pins - the National Organization for Women now carries them in its gift shop. Visit www.lisacolburn.com for details.

In Bangor, I discovered S.I.L.K. Glass. Artisans Sandra and Irvin Krupke create beautiful pendants suspended on chains or leather cords. For information, visit www.themainehighlands-guild._com/shopping. Also amazing are Donna Tumosa's tidepool-like pendants, available at The Grasshopper Shop in Bangor.

A little farther afield are Alison Thibault's Windhorse Designs. Thibault sells her simply elegant dichroic pieces at Five Elements Gallery in Bucksport and The Grasshopper Shop in Searsport and Bangor. Also made in Bucksport are the Seaglass Killicks by Charlotte's Daughter. A killick is a small anchor formed by a grooved stone, and the glass versions are hand-wrapped with a sterling "rope." You can find these at The Grasshopper Shop in Bangor.

Frankfort Glassworks creates enough amazing jewelry to make me see double, but if I had to choose, I'd pick the dichroic Lotus Line ring - a steal at $37, but shiny enough to satisfy my bling craving. The glassworks is located at 28 North Searsport Road in Frankfort, or online at www.frankfortglassworks.com.

A drive to the coast is a treat this time of year, and Sihaya Hopkins' Blossom Studio makes it even more so. Her tiny, gorgeous shop in Brooklin village showcases her lampworked beads. Visitors to the European Farmers Market, each Saturday at Sunnyside Greenhouse on Buck Street in Bangor, can also view Hopkins' reasonably priced, refined pieces.

In Blue Hill, Handworks Gallery also carries Hopkins' work (and a wide selection of adornments), but the gallery won't open till the end of May. But that's not to say you can't get great glass now - I headed across the street to New Cargoes and satisfied the glass craving with Adrea Piazza's $10 Venetian glass earrings.

A quick detour to Ellsworth will lead you to the new home of Atlantic Art Glass. Located off the main drag on Pine Street, the studio is a great destination for shoppers and art lovers. I'm partial to their frosted-glass earrings, which are like a funkier, artier version of sea glass.

And if you'd like something that evokes the sea, Kennebunkport artisan Sue Rioux's reversible dichroic pendants, available at The Grasshopper Shop, look like sunlight sparkling on the waves.

For a complete sensory overload, I recommend a visit to PrismGlass Gallery on Route 1 in Rockport. The selection of jewelry is amazing. It's definitely the place to start your own obsession.

But be warned: Once you have a touch of glass, it's all over.