Mary Hong has lived surrounded by the ocean in Hawaii, and now she is surrounded by water again in Destin.
Hong is a glass artist who gains inspiration from the water, no matter where she is. She then turns that inspiration into artful glass designs for your home.
Hong has worked with glass for the past 13 years. She discovered it while living in Hawaii, where she resided for 14 years, when she took a vacation in Athens, Greece. In Greece, she came across beautiful glass beads that she took back home with her to Hawaii. When she met a master glass worker and saw him work at his kiln, she was hooked, and wanted to create her own pieces.
When Hong and her husband decided to leave Hawaii, they bought a lot in South Walton sight unseen. Hong had never been to this area before, but trusted her husband's judgment.
"We just decided to come and give it a try," she says now. "I moved here and didn't know anyone."
But that has worked out fine as she now says that everyone she has met here is so nice and she loves the community. And since having twins, she is putting a life of travel behind her and says she and her family are settled and are here to stay.
However, the Hongs decides to sell their lot in South Walton and moved to Destin to be closer to the airport since her husband is a pilot for Delta airlines.
A resident of Destin since 2004, Hong first worked from a home studio, and in January opened a separate studio gallery at the Shops of Grayton.
Hong said her love of art and creativity actually began with crayons when she was a toddler. She went on to earn a degree in design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The glass mosaics she creates today are usually one-of-a-kind glass panels, wall and window mosaics, and mixed media glass creations.
Her newest series is a revisit to tempered glass, a phase she went through more than 10 years ago.
During the interim she used wine bottles, kiln-formed glass, and other mediums, but she said glass always prevailed.
To get the glass into the desired pieces, Hong has to crack it, sometimes with a sledge hammer. But these days, anyone who knows her saves their broken glass and takes it to her. And if the glass pieces she has are not the color she wants, she has learned how to dye it to get the color she wants.
Using her artistic creativity, Hong sometimes mixes the glass pieces with vintage jewelry, beads, and found objects.
"Sometimes I slather it with gold and silver leaf, then mix it with other shattered remains of lamps, dinnerware, and lately, an old shower door. The stories this glass could tell …,” she said.
Hong feels she has found her niche in the unique form of glass mosaic and recycled glass artwork, which she describes as mosaic meets canvas.
"It's fine art mosaics with a wild twist of the unexpected," she said.
Her inspiration for the pieces she creates, she says, is the place she lives.
"Beach life and nature ... trees ... coastline ... water ... colors of the sea inspire me then I transfer it onto a canvas. I try to bring the outside in," she said.
Hong invites the public to visit her at Mary Hong Studio/Gallery at the Shops of Grayton and pick out one of her creations to take home. During the summer, she will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
If you don't see something you like, Hong accepts commissions to create whatever you have in mind to enhance your home's decor.
Or, come take one of her classes and learn how she does it so you can create your own.
"I love to teach and my classes are popular," she said.
Her upcoming classes include:
"Words in Glass on Board" with an option to do canvas if desired, taught at Bayou Arts Center, 105 Hogtown Bayou Lane, in Santa Rosa Beach, Sept. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon, and Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $75, which includes all materials and supplies. To register for the class email Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org.