Lise B. Hoffman started carving glass in 1992 as a hobby. Earlier that year, on a trip to Hawaii, Lise ran into a friend who had recently moved to the state from Los Angeles. The two met up after Lise’s SCUBA diving trip and went to look at dream condos on the island. One in particular grabbed Lise’s attention: it was built over a cliff, looking over the crashing waves below, and its staircase was lined with huge glass panels engraved with orchids. Lise was in awe of the glass, became immediately enamored, and simply had to know how it was done.
Back in Fairbanks, Lise went to a local glass shop and bought a book on glass etching. But the panels she saw weren’t etched. They were carved. Etching and carving are two very different methods. While etching involves acid and scraping, the designs on carved glass are deeper and three-dimensional.
Unable to find books about what she was interested in—carving—Lise set to work. What else cuts glass? she thought. Diamonds cut glass. Lise had worked in the dental profession for over ten years and thought of the diamond dental drills used in dentists’ offices. She called several friends in the industry and was able to obtain a few supply catalogs. For the first year as a glass carver, she engraved every piece by hand. Being in the dental profession for over 10 years, she had learned a great deal about holding drills and handpieces from her experience with lab work. At the time she was also working as a costume designer for a local theater and she was able to save money to begin experimenting with other methods of carving.
She thought about what else cuts glass: sand. With her savings, she was able to purchase a sandblaster, and she began to experiment with various blasting methods. She says she destroyed a lot of beautiful glass in the process, as in the beginning she bought glass bowls and vases from local gift shops. This wasn’t to last forever, though. A friend who owned a gift shop referred her to several glass wholesalers and Lise was able to purchase beautiful glass pieces for a fraction of the cost.
What began as a hobby wasn’t to remain a hobby, however. She photographed a mirror she’d carved with a humpback whale and its baby and took the photo to a local gallery to be framed. While discussing the framing, the gallery owner happened by and saw the photo over Lise’s shoulder. “Now that I can sell,” Lise recalls the owner saying. They set up a meeting with Lise promising to bring in several samples of her work.
Over the next week Lise rushed to create a few pieces to show the gallery owner, all whales and dolphins. As it was Alaska, and the interior at that, the owner was skeptical about the salability of aquatic life. Nevertheless, she bought all of the pieces outright, and, to everyone’s surprise and delight, the pieces all sold in less than a week. With stubbornness and the help of a few willing friends, Lise’s career as an artist had officially begun.
At the time of her first gallery sale, Lise, also a mother of two school-aged children, was working in the basement in her home. Forced to retire from the dental profession due to a severe allergy to latex several years before, she was also working a full-time job in an office. After her initial sales and the incredibly positive response from the community, she decided to become an artist full-time. She left her office job and rented a small studio space above the gallery in downtown Fairbanks.
Company Growth, Awards and Honors
Oceanid Designs was incorporated in 1995, and in 2000 Lise and her business moved from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage brought with it a bigger studio and new opportunities. It was here that Lise began to create architectural pieces, including the wall at the SpringHill Suites Marriott in downtown Fairbanks (erected in the summer of 2001), and the windows, balcony, wall, and elevator border at the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitors Center in Homer, Alaska (2004), all of which can be seen in the architectural gallery on this website.
Lise’s other accomplishments include receiving a request from Hillary Clinton to do an ornament for the White House Christmas tree in 1997, being commissioned to do a piece for the President of Iceland in 2007, and creating the first, second, and third place trophies for the winners of the 20th Anniversary of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Lise’s work was also featured in the University of Alaska Museum’s “Working Inspirations” exhibit in the fall of 1993, and was selected for the national “Glass Act” show at the Galleriea Mesa in Arizona in the spring of 1997. In 2001, her work was accepted into the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institutes American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. Most recently, Lise received first place in professional cold working at the Glass and Bead Expo in Las Vegas in the spring of 2008, as well as several other awards.
A Note On The Art
Lise says if she can’t draw it, she can’t carve it. With the exception of a few collaborative projects, including with Kathleen Carlo and the late Alex Combs through One by Two at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Lise’s work is her own. Each piece is carefully designed and one-of-a-kind. Lise draws all of her own designs, from those of an aquatic nature—her favorites include whales and dolphins—to creatures of the Alaskan wilderness: polar bears, moose, caribou, birds, and wild flowers. People often ask Lise if she blows her own glass in addition to carving, to which she replies that a painter is not required to weave his own canvas thus she does not blow her own glass. Glass is her canvas, and like a painter she carefully chooses each raw piece, purchased from glass manufacturers around the world. The pieces may inspire a design, or the design may choose the piece. Either way, Lise’s pieces are stunning, masterful, exquisite works of art.