Thibault says she has a happier life BY TOM SEYMOUR

Wednesday, November 22

BUCKSPORT — Alison Thibault had it made with a career as a corporate banker and a six-figure salary. But she walked away from it and moved from Massachusetts to Maine, where she has started a new life — a happier one, she says.

Alison’s search for direction led her to try novel writing and also business consulting, neither of which worked for her. The novel remains unfinished. “Someday, perhaps,” Alison said. So for a time, Alison wandered, without direction. Then her mother gave her a copy of The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, and told her it would change her life. And it did.

“The Artist’s Way got me on the right path,” Alison said. “And a verse by John Burroughs helped. It said, ‘Leap, and the net will appear.’ So I leapt, purely on faith.”

Alison’s mom figured into her new life in another way, this time by the simple act of giving her daughter a set of earrings. These were made via a new medium, called fused glass. This was at the time of Alison’s search for a new life. Alison liked the earrings, but lost one. So she decided to learn how to make fused glass jewelry so that she could make a companion to her remaining earring. And thus Alison discovered the craft that would become the basis for her new life.

Alison’s mother continued to influence her life decisions, by moving to Holden. This served as an inducement for Alison to move to Maine as well. She chose Bucksport because it was near to her mom, and also, centrally located, with roughly equal distances to Ellsworth, Bangor/Brewer and Belfast. Since Alison’s grandparents lived on Vinalhaven, her move to Bucksport meant that she could now visit them more often, too.

For a time, Alison waited on tables and tended bar. Both these trades, Alison says, are among the most useful that anyone could learn, since they are marketable anytime, anywhere. In fact, Alison occasionally relies upon these sidelines for extra income. But back to her jewelry making, and the opening of Five Elements Studio and Gallery.

Alison embarked on a course of self-study in 2001, and taught herself how to make jewelry and also learned about glass fusing. The glass Alison uses to make her artistic creations is called dichroic glass, or fused glass, and it is a space-age material. The laser industry uses filters made of fused glass, and NASA employs fused glass as well. And, of course, jewelers have discovered fused glass.

The glass Alison uses comes in flat sheets. This is cut and then fired in a special kiln. By varying the firing temperature, different colors result from the same sheet of glass. Each piece, then, becomes unique, never again to be duplicated. Every dichroic piece of fused glass jewelry in Alison's studio is one-of-a-kind.

In the beginning, Alison worked out of her Bucksport home and as her jewelry grew in popularity, she decided to open a shop in town. Five Elements Studio & Gallery opened on Main Street, Bucksport, in 2004.

“I work more, now, but it’s different,” Alison said. “I used to have terrible headaches, and I literally ate Advil. Now they’re gone. I don’t have any regrets, either. I wanted work that I wouldn’t have to retire from. I never got used to the concept of just stopping your career.”

Alison, and her line of glass called “Wind Horse,” have a devoted following in Bucksport. She mentioned one particular family where four different generations wear her jewelry. Some people have the goal of owning something in every color and shade. “It’s much more than I ever thought it would be,” Alison said.

Alison sells her jewelry in her shop, and also distributes it wholesale to other Maine outlets, including Coyote Moon in Belfast, and the Grasshopper Shop in Searsport. Alison also sells online, through her website. Alison’s mailing list now has more than 400 names, which she says speaks to the response to her jewelry.

Alison says she is now happy. And although she still does some bookkeeping for people, and only recently got done waiting tables and bartending, her path as a craftsperson has become clear to her.

Alison likes Bucksport, and enjoys the “real Maine” aspect of the town, as well as the friendly people, so many of who are now her friends.

Five Elements Studio & Gallery features Alison’s unique, fused glass jewelry, as well as offerings from other, local artists. These include oil and watercolor paintings, and a line of pottery. Alison’s shop is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on other days by appointment. Call (207) 863-2262 for more information, or visit the website at: www.fiveelementsgallery.com.