Cindy Alblas’s hands were trembling as she watched her three suitcases carrying 130 handmade stained glass picture frames rumble down the airport conveyor belt. Months of fragile work – destined for Hollywood.
Alblas, of Cindy Diane Designs, has been creating stained glass art for nearly 30 years – since she was a high school student in Southern Ontario.
“I loved Lite-Brite when I was a kid,” Alblas said. “I would sit in the room with the lights off for hours playing with Lite-Brite, so I think I’ve just always had a connection with colour and it’s something that resonates with me.”
In the artisan town of St. Jacobs, which is renowned for its cultivation of world-class talent, Alblas began cutting, grinding, soldering and polishing glassworks. Ten years ago, she brought her skills to Christina Lake.
But from small town Canada, Alblas found herself sharing her craft with the names of Hollywood last month, during the Emmy festivities in Los Angeles. Along with Christina Lake native Dan Walker, a silversmith who splits his time between the Boundary and the Comox Valley on Vancouver island, Alblas was invited to a celebrity gift room event.
The gift rooms work like guided artist market tours. Celebrities, like four-time NBA champion John Salley, are escorted around a room of vendors. Everyone from artists to chefs and tourism reps wait and greet each tinseltown visitor with a gift.
“It’s all about those photos that you’re bringing home,” said Boundary resident Annette McArthur, who has been involved with coordinating gift room events for more than 20 years, about why artists are interested in attending. “Then you’re able to say, ‘Well, look at some of the cool people that have tried my product, whether it’s a soap or shampoo or anything in between.” Like stained glass, silver jewelry and soup.
One vendor that McArthur found had created a dried vegan soup – a sort of “just add water” creation. But when the weekend came, the dried packages that they’d shipped to Los Angeles had disappeared. No more soup, save the safety pack they’d brought in their own luggage. Naturally, they couldn’t give away soup to celebrities, given they only had two bags of it, McArthur recalled. Instead, they had to reject one after another, promising though to send them soup when they got back to B.C.
After saying the line over and over again all day, but presumably with little of the embedded humour, the vendors were surprised by a man made famous by that very idea. The announcer came on the mic and said:
“He’s known for one thing and one thing only,” McArthur recalled. “Ladies and gentlemen, Larry Thomas, the soup nazi.”
McArthur first approached Alblas last May – from then until Emmy weekend, the artist worked with a team of trusted friends and volunteers to create her gifts: Jetsons-esque TV picture frames. Several months and 6,000 glass cuts later, Alblas meticulously packed away her picture frames to tote down to Hollywood.
“I met a lot of youth celebrities, who I was super inspired by,” said Alblas about the gift room. “I’m inspired by young people and I love mentoring young people and to see these young people in really awesome roles and so mature and full of life was really great.”
Albas sent producers from shows like Dancing with the Stars home with her hand-made souvenir (a fact many were apparently impressed with),
“It’s just fun to be around all that energy and just to see where it goes,” the Christina Lake artist said of the experience.