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Blind Bird Designs is a locally owned glass-blowing company based in Amarillo. If you’re a regular at The Collective, you’ve probably shopped their selection of handmade glass items, or maybe even attended a workshop! Clayton and Sarah Spaulding are the creative power couple behind Blind Bird Designs. Together, these Amarillo Natives have a passion for tastefully blending modern and organic aesthetics through all mediums of three dimensional art. Clayton and Sarah are both formally trained in glass, ceramics, and sculpture, but after years of assisting various artists throughout the country, they decided to move back to their hometown and start a glassblowing studio of their own.  

In their studio you will find one-of-a-kind fine art pieces as well as offer a line of high-end functional wares. This year they’ve taken up residence at the Amarillo Art Institute, with their studio tucked inside a corner of the Sunset Art Galleries. Read all about their journey to this point and their love for art below:

Sarah and Clayton Spaulding, owners of Blind Bird Designs in Amarillo, Texas.
Front entrance to Sunset Art Galleries and Amarillo Art Institute in Amarillo, Texas.
Inside Sunset Art Gallery during construction.
Entry to Blind Bird Design Studio from Sunset Art Galleries.
Entrance into Blind Bird Designs from Amarillo Art Institute painting class.

Both of you grew up in Amarillo, but I’m curious what sparked your interest in the arts. Was that something you grew up interested in as a child, or did it come later?

Sarah: For me, I was always drawing and coloring but I didn’t consider myself an “art kid” until I was a junior in high school. It was the only class that fit into my schedule, and I kind of got pushed into it, and I wasn’t happy about that! Then, all of a sudden, I fell in love with it.

Clayton: I definitely got started young in the art world. My grandparents were painters and woodworkers, and so they were always buying me books to learn more. I was a pretty easy kid to entertain – just give me some paper and a pencil and I would draw for hours. Even though I was very interested, it took me a while to come around to the idea of doing art full time. I was not the 6-year-old kid who knew they wanted to be an artist for a living. I definitely left art behind and came back several times.

Sculptures and vases handmade by Blind Bird Design glass blowing studio.
Glass-blown art from Blind Bird Designs.

What was the moment for you that made you decide, “You know what, I DO want to do this full-time”?

Sarah: My moment came when I was leaving a terribly situation in life, and at the time I was a single mom. And my parents came to me and said that they wanted to help me go back to school, and of course I was excited. I told myself that if I’m going to go back to school, if I’m really going to do this, I’m going to do what I want. And that was art.

Clayton: For me, I had been piddling around in a pursuing a bunch of other degrees, until I switched to being an art major. I eventually got fed up and dropped out of school, and told myself I could do it on my own. But in trying to do everything on my own, I realized that I needed a push. So I went back to school, and it was a game-changer this time around. I was focused, ready to learn, and I genuinely wanted to be there. I think at that point, is when I discovered glass and I wanted to make art for a living. I didn’t want to work for a designer, I wanted to do it for myself. That’s really when that coin flipped for me.

Clayton Spaulding heating glass to sculpt in the design studio.
Clayton Spaulding of Blind Bird Designs sculpting a glass pumpkin in their glass studio.

I love that you both found your passion in glass. Is that also how you two met?

Clayton: Yes! We met in the glass program! Sarah was on her way out as I was coming into the program. That’s how we met.

Sarah: If I’m being honest, it was my last semester and I was just trying to focus on graduation and finishing my senior show. And he walked into the studio, and I was like, “Dang it! Go away, I don’t need a distraction!” But he didn’t go away, and I’m so glad he didn’t.

Clayton and Sarah Spaulding working in the Blind Bird Design Studio.
Glass-blowing equipment

So now that y’all have Blind Bird Designs, where you’re able to create your art outside of large-production glass items or working for a designer. What is your favorite part of making glass, or what makes you want to do what you do? Or what is your favorite thing to make in the studio?

Clayton: I don’t know that I have a favorite thing that I like to make right now. I’m in a very experimental phase right now. So in my personal work, I’m getting to play around and figuring out new things. I do really like making the broken pieces that are sewn back together. Those have been fun to create as of late. I’ve also been getting into more sculpting as opposed to blowing glass. I never used to do that, but we’ve been doing a lot of kid’s workshops where sculpting glass makes more sense. So I’ve started enjoying it more as we’ve been teaching it.

Working for other people, or other companies, is great in a learning aspect. We were in Dallas for 5 years working for an artist there. It was great in that I was able to really beef up my skill sets (while being paid to do that!). But I got to a point where you get sick of seeing your work going into someone else’s portfolio. It was a fantastic opportunity, for sure. I’m proud of the work I was able to create, but it was time to do our own thing. When the timing was right, we decided to save up and pull the trigger.

Sarah: I would say the exact same thing about working with another artist. It is great to sharpen those skills, but at some point you believe you can do it for yourself. We wouldn’t be the artists we are without those residencies and programs, but I’m so much more proud of Blind Bird and what we have personally been able to accomplish.

As far as my favorite things to make, I love to mix pieces that have several steps to them when I get the opportunity. Maybe they start out in the glass blowing studio and that’s how we get the color or pattern. Then I might go in and cut up that glass, and refuse it in the kiln. So I’m able to get a little bit of everything, multiple techniques, in one piece. And I don’t get bored with that process, so that’s an added bonus.

I know y’all have done several workshops out at The Collective, and even host workshops in your own studio. Whether it’s fused glass, or blowing the signature flower sculptures, y’all obviously have a love to share this process with others. What’s your favorite thing to teach people to make?

Clayton: My favorite things to make are probably any item that we have to spin out at the end. It’s fun to watch people’s expressions when that happens. Or, another thing we do more often are our bubble bowls. We actually suck the air out of them to create the shape. This is really fun because a lot of people are under the impression that you can’t suck air out, or that you’re not supposed to. So it’s fun to see people’s face’s when that happens – a lot of shock and awe.

Sarah: I might change that questions to be who are my favorite people to teach, which would be kids. They have no fear when they come into the studio. Where adults see the flames, and can be a little more hesitant. Kids get so excited to even just see a little bubble on the end of a pipe, and it’s always good energy. Being able to teach children something so close to my heart is just a mood lifter. Good vibes fill the Blind Bird Designs studio when there are kids in the shop!

For anyone who is interested in glass blowing, what do you recommend for them to start out? Is this something that they can come to your studio and learn, or is the traditional art school route better to learn?

Clayton: I would say that doing a Tase of Glass class would be a great starting point to make sure you’re good with the heat. It’s also a lot of physical work, so just making sure that you have the stamina for it is an important place to start. But after that initial class, if you decide you really want to go for it, I would recommend our 6-week course. It’s the best bang for your buck, but it’s also the best way to learn. It gives you more of that apprenticeship feel with loads of one-on-one instruction, as well as working with a team. So it really helps to set you up for how it’s going to be when you start doing it on your own.

Sarah: I would add that getting that taste first to make sure that you’re okay with the heat. Maybe test it out in all seasons, because it can definitely get warm. But also to make sure that you’re comfortable with heavy tools and things like that. Glass blowing can be very labor intensive, but what’s impressive is that we’ve taught our own kids, at the age of four, to a 92-year-old student. Anyone can do this, and that’s something I love most about what we do.

Blind Bird Design studio is here at Sunset Arts. Are you going to be teaching classes at the Amarillo Art Institute?

Clayton: We will continue having our own line-up of classes you can find on our website. But we are also going to have select classes through the Institute. So any members can get a discount to those classes.

What are you doing outside of glass blowing? Any other hobbies?

Clayton: I’ve actually been doing a lot of sewing. I’ve been making clothes, bags, and hats. It’s something I’m really enjoying, maybe something I might start offering in the near future. It’s just something fun to keep busy with.

Sarah: Gardening! I absolutely love spending time in the garden. I can’t wait until I’m an old retired lady, and all I have to do is tend to our garden. I do a mix of vegetables and flowers, and this year I’m starting a tea garden. I can’t wait to grow and brew all of my own teas!

You two, and your two kids, are all Amarillo natives. We need to know what is your favorite coffee shop and/or your favorite restaurant?

Clayton: I don’t know if I have a favorite coffee shop right now. We love to eat at Yellow City or at Punjabi Affair. Those are our favorites for sure.

Sarah: Roasters is probably our favorite. Clayton’s little brother works there, and it’s nice to go in and see a familiar face!

You can follow along Blind Bird Designs’ daily journey on Instagram, or book yourself a class on their website! Don’t forget they are hosting a Fused Glass workshop this weekend at The Collective, and you can book your tickets here.


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