Brenda Neil of Ochlocknee, Ga has always loved stained glass. She'll even go so far as to say that she's "addicted to anything made out of glass". Having always been a "crafty person", Brenda took a night course in stained glass at a local high school 18 years ago that got her hooked.
She has slowly upgraded from a small personal kiln to a much larger, professional kiln to complete her fused glass projects. Over the last 12 years Brenda has watched Kenny run all our Labradors in field trials , it didn't take long for Brenda to apply her glass expertise to designing Labrador pins in honor of the Lab who inspired her Whoa Nellie.As Brenda recalls, “I first made a Black Lab pin that I always wore when we were running Nellie. I then thought I’m going to need a pin for each one of our dogs. I always wore my pins at all the field trials, they were my Lucky Labs.” What first started as a celebration of personal pride in her pups, spread like wildfire throughout the Lab community as people approached her asking, “where did you get those wonderful pins?” Already a busy woman, Brenda got even busier producing her signature Lab design for her many fans.
To make these gorgeous glass creations, Brenda first traces the Lab head pattern on a 12 x 12 inch sheet of glass using a gold marker. She then cuts out the image using a glass cutter and a glass saw and grinds the sharp edges. Next, she adds little slices of millefiori (fused rods of ornamental glass, Italian in origin, that have the natural appearance of flowers) or pieces of dichroic glass. These glass pieces give the pins their brilliant color patterns. She melts these pieces together in her kiln at 1500 degrees and then lets them cool for about 8 hours. If the glass is taken out of the kiln before it cools, it will crack due to the rapid temperature change. Because the piece melts and loses shape after firing, Brenda re-shapes the piece with a glass grinder. She then cuts out the ear and nose glass pieces, adds these to the Lab profile and places the piece back in the kiln at 1500 degrees for another 8 hours or so. She signs the pin with an etching pen and glues the pin attachment to the back side. Due to the cooling process, each pin takes several days to make. And because of the unpredictable nature of glass and the firing process, each piece is completely unique-no two Lucky Lab pins are exactly alike!
With Brenda and her husband Ken, on the road about 5 months out of the year, she has managed to find a way to make the process entirely portable as well. She brings her smaller kiln along in their motor home which allows her to fire 12 pins at a time- significantly fewer than the 60 that her larger kiln can accommodate-but still enough to fill orders and satisfy her "addiction" to glass
Brenda wasn't kidding when she called herself a "crafty" woman. She not only works in glass, but has applied her creativity to crafting lots of Lab-themed jewelry pieces and one of a kind Gifts. As Brenda’s business has expanded and grown she is now very involved with providing custom Awards and Judges gifts for Field Trial and Hunt Test clubs all over the country.
As for Labs, she can't say enough. When asked what gets her so bubbly about the breed Brenda says, "Well, what isn't there to like about Labs? They just have the best personalities. They are so smart and they always make you laugh.
It's amazing to watch them work at field trials." Amazing indeed, as Brenda lists the accomplishments of her Labs like the proud parent that she is. Over the last 14 years we have had 12 Labs, our first little girl Nellie won the National Amateur Retriever Championship that was held in June of 2007 in Castle Rock, Utah and Windy Won the National Open in November of 2007 in Morgan Hill, California...What a fantastic year that was!!! Ken has titled 6 of our 12 dogs, qualified for and competed in numerous National Championships.
At these National events that last a week Brenda sets up her booth and displays all of her merchandise. It is so much fun to see different people from all over the country enjoying my pins and other custom creations.