By Lauren H. Dowdle

Photos by James and Rachel Culver

Artist Toby Klein may have traded in her paint for a kiln, but the results remain the same: stunning artwork that stands out from the rest.

A Hoover resident for more than four decades, Toby made a name for herself as a mixed-media artist, winning awards and showcasing her pieces at art shows across town and beyond. Now, she’s creating kiln-formed glass artwork that feels both new and familiar, thanks to her distinctive artistic style that carries over to all she does.

“The thought process and stages of working between my mixed-media collage pieces and kiln-formed glass are similar; although, one uses paper and paint products, and the other uses multiple colors of glass to create the piece of art,” Toby says.

Her glass pieces range from bowls and vases to wall hangings and more. While no two are exactly the same, her kiln-formed artwork highlights a beautiful range of colors and dimension.

“All of my work is an adventure, beginning with an idea and then working through each phase to completion,” Toby says. “My glass is created with a burst of colors and design captured in my kaleidoscopic world.”

While her current artwork might look very different from the ones she created in the past, it’s been a natural progression to this point in her artistic career, she says. Having always been intrigued by the natural vibrancy of glass and the beautiful reflections it creates, Toby says she originally began adding pieces of glass to her mixed-media work before making the switch.

“I’ve loved the radiance of glass for many years and the way it glows and shines on a table in the light,” Toby says.

As she started learning about and using kiln-formed glass, she incorporated the fused glass into her collage art, as well. She found herself wanting to create larger pieces of glass, and when the pandemic hit, she says it was the perfect time to change the direction of her art.

“I’m always interested in learning more, but during COVID is when I really made the change to glass,” Toby says. “I had taken some classes locally to get more information and began experimenting with different techniques.”

Like with any trade, there’s trial and error involved with figuring out what works best. Although, Toby says she’s never afraid to try something new—which is one of the reasons her pieces are such standouts.

“The journey begins by creating color, depth and texture by overlapping pieces of glass with abstract shapes—many times leaving spaces in between to create rich hues, design and dimension,” Toby says.

For her pieces, she uses special glass that’s made for fusing and says that incorporating dichroic glass gives her projects that special sparkle. Once she’s selected the type and color of glass to use, she cuts and works with it to prepare the piece for the kiln. She says she spends a great deal of time creating these original pieces.

“They are designed to have dimensional thickness with the way the pieces alternate in depth,” Toby says. “Special schedules and multiple firings create the smoothness of the glass, yet it retains the texture and shape of the final piece.”

Her process, like with each piece she creates, has several steps and layers involved to bring the glass closer to the desired result. One part of that is the molds she incorporates. Toby uses handmade, purchased and manipulated molds in a process called slumping to create her glass pieces. That takes place during a separate firing of the item, and the glass is slumped into or over the mold to create its shape.

“The addition of a copper or bronze wire design that’s intertwined with the glass is sometimes used to complete the overall effect as well,” Toby says. “Each piece is individually designed and handcrafted by me.”

She also follows the same process she uses on her kiln-formed glass pieces on a smaller scale to create her original jewelry designs. But no matter what it is she’s creating, it’s uniquely her work.

“Understanding color, design and technique has allowed me to experiment with glass, developing my own style in creating different and unusual pieces,” Toby says. “My kiln-formed glass shows my love for color, depth and texture.”

Those aren’t the only things she loves, though. While she primarily focuses on her glass work these days, she says her other artwork still has a special place in her heart—and that isn’t going to change.

“Even though I enjoy the process of creating with glass, I still love my mixed-media collage work and sometimes will stop and take time to create some small pieces,” Toby says.

As both new and existing customers begin seeing and experiencing her glass pieces, she says she hopes they enjoy them as much as she does.

“It makes me feel good when they walk in and love all of the colors and sparkle of the glass,” Toby says.

Whether they stop by a booth of hers at a local art show (read more about those in the sidebar) or reach out to her about her pieces, community members are sure to be inspired when they see Toby’s kiln-formed glass artwork.

“I want to evoke an emotional response for those viewing my glass,” Toby says. “I really appreciate their excitement shown over the vibrant colors and their reflection, the style and shape of each piece, recognizing the work that has gone into creating them.”

To contact her about a piece or be added to her email list, email her at

Where to Spot Toby’s Artwork

Oct. 5: Bluff Park Art Show at Bluff Park Community Park

Nov. 9-10: Alabama Craft Guild’s fine craft show at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Dec. 14-15: Blue Light Special Art Show at Cahaba Clayworks and Earthborn Studios

Various dates: The Farmers Market at Pepper Place