Hilltop couple makes snow globes into works of art

The pair travels the country for art shows

Kailyn Lamb
Posted 2/6/19

Snow falls outside the window of Hilltop residents Cameron Lewis and Reid Grossnickle’s workshop. But there’s a bit of snow inside, too, in the confetti and glitter swirling in the collection of …

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Hilltop couple makes snow globes into works of art

The pair travels the country for art shows

Posted

Snow falls outside the window of Hilltop residents Cameron Lewis and Reid Grossnickle’s workshop. But there’s a bit of snow inside, too, in the confetti and glitter swirling in the collection of snow globes — some now decades old with yellowing water — that line shelves in the entrance of the pair’s packed workshop.

Many of the globes celebrated milestones of corporate companies, some no longer in existence.

Making snow globes was a career that unexpectedly landed in Grossnickle’s lap. He and Lewis originally made cubes with liquid and sculptures inside. The pair were at an art show in Las Vegas in the ‘90s when someone asked if the art could be set in globes instead.

So Grossnickle began making snow globes for companies. Lewis later explored the couple’s more artistic side with globes for art shows as well as their Etsy shop.

“I kept looking for snow globes that I imagined, and I couldn’t find any,” Lewis said. “There was nobody we could find making snow globes for grownup art.”

The magic happens at the back of the couple’s workshop in northeast Denver.

Grossnickle helps repair snow globes sent to the workshop, many of them collectibles or items with special family memories. But he also makes snow globes with people’s photos and for companies or universities that want bulk orders with each one looking exactly the same.

He is one of the few snow-globe makers in the U.S. making corporate products, Grossnickle said. Other companies are based in China and Taiwan. The pair don’t advertise or promote repairs on their website, but if people ask, Grossnickle will often take in customer’s broken globes. After repairing his first globe for a family who lost their mother to cancer, he couldn’t say no.

“When I fixed the one, Pandora’s Box got open, and the flood has just come in,” he said.

Lewis is in charge of the handmade creations — snow globes large and small inspired by trinkets or other objects she finds. She often stops on walks, picking up plastic pieces or items people consider trash.

“We still get inspired by what we experience,” she said.

Each globe contains its own little world. As a former architect, Grossnickle sometimes makes model stairs or other items to go in the globes. The largest ones are 5 inches in diameter. Often, Lewis sets those globes on stands that have vertical liquid tubes with glitter and confetti.

“Those are really fun because we’re pushing the envelope, how far can you push a snow globe,” Lewis said. “Either people get that or they don’t.”

The couple moved their workshop to northeast Denver after getting priced out of the River North neighborhood, where they worked for 30 years, they said. The workshop houses all the glitter and confetti for the globes, as well as the liquid solutions and glass. Creating snow globes can be as much a science as an art because of all the steps to ensure the confetti works in the liquid solution, Lewis said.

“Every glitter and confetti that we use has to be soaked for months,” Lewis said. “Otherwise, we dye all the liquid multi-colors.”

Although Lewis handles the business side of the artistic snow globes, making them is a collaborative effort. Once she finishes the sculpture on the inside, she passes it along to Grossnickle who picks out the color of the confetti. Some items float differently in the liquid, she added, and can take hours to descend to the bottom again.

“Reid’s brilliant with the confetti and sparkles, and how to add things,” Lewis said. “Occasionally, he’ll do something where you shake it and the globe will go completely solid color.”

Completing a snow globe can take several months of careful and concentrated work.

“Snow globes, you gotta treat them like babies,” Lewis said. “They’re divas.”

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