A Seattle Designer Creates Glassware For A Good Cause

ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN | BY | May 31, 2019

Meet The Maker

Lee Rhodes

Back in the mid 1990s, Lee Rhodes, a 32-year-old mother of three young children, was battling lung cancer. One day during that time, she placed a tea light candle into a handblown glass votive holder and found the effect “calming and peaceful and colorful,” she says. Thus was born Glassybaby, the company she founded in 2001, which creates elegant, delicate votives in hundreds of hues. “The way light plays and dances with glass makes it an experiential form of design,” she says.

But Glassybaby provides much more than attractive accessories and healing light therapy. While undergoing chemotherapy, Rhodes was dismayed to learn that some of her fellow patients couldn’t afford the basic costs associated with receiving treatment, like hiring a babysitter or paying for parking. So she made sure that Glassybaby would be a money-raising as well as a money-making platform, earmarking 10 percent of revenues for charitable causes.

Thanks to early publicity from fans like Martha Stewart and investments from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Laurene Powell Jobs, the enterprise blossomed quickly. Glassybaby currently employs 80 artisans in its Seattle and Berkeley, California, facilities. Handmade drinking glasses have been added to its repertoire, which is available online or via eight brick-and-mortar boutiques all located on the West Coast.

To date, Glassybaby has directed more than $9 million to nonprofit organizations that support struggling cancer patients, in addition to some that help animals and protect the planet. As Rhodes, now a three-time cancer-survivor, looks to the future, she says: “I’d like to bring the colorful and calming nature of Glassybaby to hospitals and transform those places from cold and clinical to warm and friendly. We’re working on creating the perfect electric tea light for just that reason.” Votives with a motive, indeed.

PHOTOS: COURTESY GLASSYBABY

Meet More Makers