Hagerstown scenes etched in glass

October 28, 2008|By JANET HEIM

He might not be a household name in Hagerstown yet, but Yemi is hoping to become one after the unveiling of his collection of four handcrafted glass ornaments that feature Hagerstown scenes.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Yemi came to the United States in 1983 at age 18 to study art at the Pratt Institute in New York.

"I wanted to develop my art to a higher level than I could in Nigeria," said Yemi, 49, who chose to stay in the U.S.

He quickly found that few Americans could pronounce his last name, Fagbohun, so he chose to use only his first name.


The beveled glass ornaments are dated and signed by the artist, and come in a signed gift box. The four unique scenes include Public Square, a downtown scene, an angel and a horse-drawn carriage.

"Each one is individually hand-drilled. I individually carve each one myself," Yemi said of his designs.

Yemi has designed ornaments for the Maryland cities of Annapolis, New Market and Frederick.

The Hagerstown ornaments are being sold exclusively at Carol & Co. in downtown Hagerstown and were on display at the store's holiday open house Oct. 18 and 19.

"Hopefully, if these do well, they will become a collectible. Each year, we add a new design," he said.

Yemi lives in Frederick County, Md., near Cunningham Falls, but has a Smithsburg address. He learned of Carol & Co. through a neighbor who used to work at the downtown Hagerstown store.

"They were looking to help me out as an artist," Yemi said.

After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees at the Pratt Institute, he worked as a commercial illustrator, building an international portfolio that included greeting cards and stamp designs for foreign countries.

His work was featured in Neiman-Marcus and Macy's department stores, he said.

In 1996, wanting to move out of Manhattan and "wanting to do work coming out of my heart, not my head," he and his first wife and young son moved to Frederick.

Yemi found he was inspired by Frederick and decided to make the city his "muse."

"I like smaller towns that you can get your arms around, hug and embrace," he said. He also likes working with communities where residents are proud of their town.

He stumbled upon glass as a medium after a friend with a stained-glass business asked him to paint a glass coffee table, sparking his interest in learning more about working with glass.

"Glass has been, for me, the most fulfilling," Yemi said.

He said he sold 600 Christmas glass ornaments in Frederick and said his work creating the ornaments felt so good, he didn't mind working until 4 a.m. to keep up with the orders.

"I did it joyfully," he said.

During October, November and December, he works exclusively on his ornaments. The rest of the year is devoted to making jewelry, wine glasses, mugs and other items in his gift line.

Yemi also does large projects, like the painted murals he did for the band shell addition in Frederick's Baker Park. He is working on a 150-by-10-foot mural for the McCutcheon's building in Frederick.

Information about the Hagerstown glass ornaments can be obtained by calling Carol & Co. at 301-797-8861. The store is at 25 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

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