By Michelle Hiskey
Corinne Adams’ artistic vision saw past the shattered window of her VW Touareg in a Buckhead church parking lot, beyond what the thieves took, and admired what was left behind. Nuggets of safety glass scattered like diamonds on the ground, aquamarine like the waters of the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. Her favorite color.
Cuffs, earrings, belt buckles and more—ever since her break in, she creates these and more from the glass remnants of car crimes and misadventures. “After that first bowl of glass from my broken car window ran out, I wondered if I could get any more,” she said. “But knowing that I live in Atlanta, I didn’t really worry. I knew I would have a good supply.”
C Glass, the company that came out of that painful moment in the Peachtree Presbyterian Church parking lot on Oct. 15, 2009, turns collision glass into aquamarine-tinted (think sea glass) accessories that convey a message of hope and redemption. Reinventing jewelry this way began “as a joke,” said Adams, who decorated a copper cuff out of the smashed car glass. Friends noticed her bold new piece and asked her for one; Buckhead boutiques placed orders.
C Glass today is sold through her website, in local boutiques like Nandina Home and Design in Virginia Highland, Bee on East Andrews, the Spruill Gallery in Dunwoody, and Wild Oats and Billy Goats in Decatur, as well as stores on the Florida Panhandle and Aiken, S.C.
Cleaning up broken glass a community service
“Composing and making things has always interested me,” said Adams, 63, a mother of two adult children who juggles jewelry making with photography at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, church missions trips, and more. Her home is a short drive from the art studio she has worked out of for 20 years.
“Corinne is cool, eclectic, anti-Buckhead in the best way,” said church friend and customer Karen Sheldon. “She’s very independent in her style; she wore scarves before people wore scarves. She’s ahead of her time. She’s the opposite of a Buckhead Betty even though her home is right in the middle of it all.”
Car break-ins are fairly common at Memorial Park, located off Peachtree Battle, where Sheldon spends time with her children. “Sometimes when I walk there, I ‘ll see an entire window shattered on the ground, and I will call Corinne,” Sheldon said. “It’s like a community service because otherwise kids will try to play with it or dogs will walk in it. I love the reduce, reuse, recycle [aspect] of the jewelry, and how out of something terrible, out of the worst day when you lose your purse or your laptop from your car, she made something cool with it.”
Conversation starters from C Glass include a bluebird of happiness pin ($30). Items like this often become gifts to mark difficult life events, as a message that what is broken can become something beautiful. “Truly if it didn’t have a message for me, I would have let it go a long time ago,” said Adams, who makes the pieces individually in her basement, while wearing a respirator to avoid the adhesive’s toxic fumes. “I enjoy reminding myself that there is so much beauty in things that are broken. In the moment in which there is no hope and you think it’s over, you can look back and see it as maybe your richest time, a time to grow and change and gain a new perspective.”
C stands for many concepts
C started out as a reference to Corinne, but has come to signify care, conquer, crash, creative, change, connection. In 2012, it stood for cancer in Adams’ breast, from which she recovered.
“C Glass itself is almost like alchemy,” said Adams. “A side window of a car has a built-in tint that we can’t see when we are riding in the car. You can’t see how beautiful the glass is until the window is broken.” That means a lot.”
Commissions from hotels had been the main income for Adams, a fine art photographer and mixed media artist who , but those were drying up in the recession around the same time of her car break-in. “I think that’s the way the universe works,” she said. “Jewelry is a wonderful money-maker that came along the same time as the economy went down. Am I surprised? No, not if you in the right place with the right attitude and spirit of openness. This has been such a wonderful, very fun and connecting business.”
Correspondence comes from customers who see their own stories in the shattered glass. A woman who lost a baby. A friend going through a divorce. And an adorable fifth grader in Arkansas whose teacher wore a C Glass belt buckle to school and called Adams “creative” and “a truth artist.”
“Connection is an inherent part of making art,” Adams said. “Anything made by hand carries my spirit with it. When you put your spirit or soul in it, you’re looking for a connection. I love that connecting quality about C Glass.”