Usually, having your car broken into doesn’t inspire much other than being more careful about where you park. For Deanna Dionne, this experience turned into something else.
Within a week of moving to Cleveland in 2014, someone smashed in Dionne’s car window. Rather than be dismayed, it gave her an idea–to take those broken pieces and turn them into something beautiful. She started crafting ornate necklaces, bracelets, and earrings from the same type of glass she found laying on the street below, shattered in pieces where her car window once was.
While Dionne knew she had something unique in the early stages of her craft, she didn’t realize how far it would go. “When I started, I thought it would just be a fun project for a summer–you know, make a bunch of jewelry, pop up at the Cleveland Flea,” she explains. She officially launched Cleveland Street Glass in May of 2016 before rebranding to Street Glass Studio in 2019.
Dionne’s move to Cleveland at 25 years old from the metro Detroit area came as part of a self-described quarter-life crisis. Unhappy and ansty to do more with her creativity to earn a living, she quit her job and decided it was time for a new locale; one with the affordable artist studio space she craved to be able to explore and evolve her art.
Her tendency to be inspired by what she finds in her environment seems to be a shared family trait. Her father, a potter, moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the ‘70s to live off the land, digging up clay from nearby Teaspoon Creek to make his pieces.
“I moved to my area to do my own thing,” she explains. “It just so happens it’s an urban environment and what I’m finding is auto glass.”
Dionne’s street glass jewelry can be found online, at local pop ups, and in gift-shops and boutiques such as Threefold Gifts in Lakewood and The W Gallery in the 5th Street Arcades downtown. She’s also looking to expand her reach, applying to calls to artists in Cincinnati and as far as Romania to feature her jewelry. While doing that, Dionne has found a new outlet for her passion.
In April of last year, something clicked where Dionne started making sculptures, applying what she had learned from using autoglass to make jewelry on a larger scale where she felt more free to create different types of pieces.
“I’m expanding things, with a necklace it’s basically a one dimensional thing and so now I can work with more dimensions and I don’t have to make sure it hangs around a neck,” Dionne explains. “It could hang on one string, it could not hang at all.”
Dionne’s goal is to keep building up her sculpture collection so she can approach fine art galleries to feature and sell her work. While having already sold a piece a local collector, she admits she’ll likely have to look beyond the area to find buyers for higher end pieces, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be packing her bags to leave.
“I will always be in a rust belt city I believe,” Dionne says. “I’m a very rust belt girl, so even if I want to sell my work in let’s say, New York, I would never live there.”
Despite those challenges–and even if she doesn’t get her car windows smashed in again as inspiration–Dionne plans to stay and enjoy the space and affordability Cleveland provides her as an artist.