We had the good fortune of connecting with Licha Ochoa Nicholson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Licha, what role has risk played in your life or career?
When I think about the word risk, I think about taking chances on something. Some may refer to risk as taking a leap of faith. At some point in a person’s life they will be faced with taking a risk in making a decision that will impact their life. The decision will affect the outcome – some positive or some not as rewarding. In my case, taking a risk to leave Wichita, KS and move to Seattle was a major decision that changed my career journey. Although our family unit had changed when our two sons moved away to college, my husband and I continued our daily routine of working and staying busy with our hobbies. My hobby was creating stained glass windows and glass panels. Eventually I began to design and create stained glass windows for restaurants, churches, and private homes in the city of Wichita. I enjoyed my hobby but, after years of working with stained glass I began to sense that I wanted to create more with glass. Stained glass has its limit in being flat, cold, and limited in colors. I wanted to feel more movement and texture in working with glass. One year while on a business trip to Sidney, Australia I was at an art fair. I enjoyed the many works of art in different mediums but what caught my immediate attention was a booth filled with all colors and shapes of glass! The artist and I had a lengthy conversation about his beautiful work of art, and I ended up purchasing a piece of fused glass. I had never seen such a technique used in glass! When I returned home, I began to search for glass fusing instructors in Wichita, but I could not find an instructor who knew the technique of glass fusing. I began to search the state of Kansas for glass fusing instructors to no avail. Was the technique of glass fusing something new? My curiosity intensified in wanting to learn this intriguing technique. Pilchuck Glass School kept surfacing in my search for glass fusing classes. How was I going to attend a school in Seattle, WA while living in Wichita, KS? Being the spontaneous person that I can be, I decided to apply to the school. I figured when the time would come, I would worry about how I was going to attend the school in Seattle, if I were accepted, while living in Kansas. I thought it was a long shot to being accepted to Pilchuck Glass School, a renowned school of glass. After submitting my application to the glass school, I basically put it in the back of my mind and continued with my daily routine of work, life, and my hobby. Several months had passed and my husband had returned from a business trip in Seattle. We were discussing his trip and with laughter he said, “Guess what! Bob offered me a job in Seattle!” He laughed it off again, but I immediately replied, “Take it! Take it!” He looked at me as if I were crazy! I told him the move just felt right and perhaps we just needed a change now that our sons were away from home. A few weeks later our journey began even though I had never been to the Pacific Northwest, let alone Seattle. In our move we took the opportunity to down-size our living style. I kept busy establishing our living space in a smaller environment. Three months after moving to Seattle I was informed that I was accepted to Pilchuck Glass School! I took the leap of faith, or risk, to make the move hoping that I would be able to begin my new journey by attending Pilchuck Glass School. I felt that it was just meant to be! After my studies I just assumed that I would return to the workforce and continue creating with glass as a hobby. It was my husband who encouraged me to work full-time as a glass artist. It was a big decision for me to make because I have always had to work since I was 15 years of age. I chose to contribute financially to assist my parents in household expenses, then when I married, I worked fulltime while my husband was in college. I became dependent upon receiving a steady paycheck. Making the decisions to take the risks in uprooting our family unit, returning to school to learn a new direction, and working fulltime as a glass artist has been such a rewarding accomplishment for me. It is my responsibility to determine my income by designing, creating, and promoting my glass art via gallery and museum exhibitions. My journey continues in learning as much as I can working with this intriguing medium called glass. Since my initial studies at Pilchuck Glass School I have returned to Pilchuck for additional studies in a residency program and I have also attended other schools of glass to learn more glass techniques. I also teach the art of fused glass and I have been invited to teach throughout the U.S. There are endless possibilities creating with glass which I will continue to grasp! I have taken many risks in my lifetime by following my instinct. I chose to take these risks to better my journey in life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My glass designs tell a story of my family past. I am second generation Mexican American. When my father’s parents crossed the border in the early 1900’s, they were young, unmarried, and alone. They risked leaving their families behind in order to establish a new life together in a foreign country. Upon leaving Mexico my grandparents chose to sever their family ties. My father and his siblings were never told of relatives in Mexico. My father had no family stories to share with his children regarding our family lineage. When my grandparents passed, I feel that the link to my family history has been buried with them. I will continue to find any ties that link me to my family history in Mexico. My glass designs depict memories I have of my grandparents living with us under the same roof. Mama Covita was the Matriarch of our family. She took charge of the daily tasks of nurturing 5 grandchildren by cooking, cleaning, and loving us unconditionally. My work is unique from other works of art because I have a personal story to share with each piece of glass I create.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have had many family and friends visit me in Georgia. My favorite way to entertain them is to introduce them to the beautiful town of Roswell, Georgia, a suburb close to where I live. Roswell is such a quaint town full of culture. During the summer months there is always an abundance of outdoor festivities which include music, food and art festivals. I love the many restaurants that line the streets, and the aromas of the different flavors just permeate throughout the main street. There are many art galleries in Roswell that exhibit works of local art. I would spend most of my summer evenings in Roswell by taking my friends on a leisure walk along the main street of Roswell. As we smell the wonderful aromas of food we will decide where to stop and eat! After lunch or dinner, we will enjoy a cup of coffee at the corner coffee shop and just sit outdoors and people watch!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My initial studies at Pilchuck Glass School was an adventure in itself. I had no clue what I would be delving into as a student. I met so many wonderful friends during my studies but, what has really mapped my journey in glass was the opportunity to initially study under the direction of Steve Klein. He laid a solid foundation in me by establishing the roots to become a disciplined artist in glass. He was very structured in his way of teaching and he taught with such admiration for the art of glass.
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