An Unlikely Merger

Master artist Michelle Hamilton combines glass and ceramics for stunning effects.

By Sylvia Forbes
Photography by Kim Dillon


What can you do with a hunk of clay and some splinters of glass? Michelle Hamilton, master artist and owner of Zaximo Studios, has dreamed up some very creative answers.

Michelle loves to design three-dimensional objects inspired by underwater creatures of the sea. One series looks like sea anemones waving with their many undulating arms. Another source of inspiration is botanicals, which may stem from her enjoyment of gardening.

Her current work focuses on a series called “Splash.” These pieces are created as triple layers of glass. The bottom spreads low and wide, the second layer is brightly colored and the center looks like water splashing. Because of the way it's built, with many complex open spaces and intricate details, the piece exudes energy. “Layers and shadows are really important to me,” explains Michelle. “How they're lit in a gallery creates unusual images on the wall, which are almost as exciting as the piece itself.”

“Splash” has gotten lots of interest and recognition in gallery shows around the country, and even here in Missouri, as the Missouri Arts Council has asked her to make a limited edition version for the 2014 arts awards, which are given out annually to exemplary artists and art facilitators.

Another salute to her exemplary work is that the Bullseye Company, which is one of the main art glass suppliers to artists, recently chose works from 40 artists from around the world to represent the emerging field of art glass. They included her in their list of top innovative glass artists.

The transformation from Play-Doh to art pro came naturally. “We are a really creative family,” she says. “My mother was an artist and interior designer, and my father was an entrepreneur. I was given lots of clay at an early age and encouraged to experiment and express myself.” She learned from both, and now has a successful business (Zaximo) in art.

Michelle attended college at Miami University (OH), double majoring in ceramics and art education. After graduation, she moved to Santa Fe, NM, studying southwestern clay techniques. Her quest for an MFA in ceramics led her to St. Louis to attend Washington University. Here she was introduced to glass making and fell in love with it, which moved her art in a dramatic new direction. Since then, she's found ways to combine her skill in both ceramics and glass to create art. Ceramics come into play as she hand-throws the molds for the melting glass.

Much of Michelle's work can be found in private residences, hospitals and law firms. However, her work will be on display to the public at a one-man gallery show in October at the Schmidt Art Center, on the Southwestern Illinois College campus.

Michelle is a current art instructor at Maryville University, and started the glass program at the Craft Alliance. “I love to inspire students beyond their norm. But it works both ways. I find that sharing with students inspires me, too,” she says.

Her family has enthusiastically supported her throughout her art journey. She's managed to find balance among her art, kids, husband, family and teaching.

“There's a deep satisfaction when you are creating. Not just the creation process, but in observing, too. Every day I see things that inspire. Meditation is a big source of envisioning. There is a soulful feel about being able to express the self with hands, as well as how people react to a piece.”