VINALHAVEN — Alison Thibeau holds a piece of dichroic glass at waist level, tilting it slightly, its rich purple hues looking like the iridescence on a mussel shell. Then she lifts the glass toward the light in the window, and it’s now the color of sun-dappled ferns.

That’s the “di” in the dichroic glass; both colors are in the glass, but the change in light brings them out.

The same might be said about Thibault. The jewelry she makes at her Five Elements Gallery Studio has turned her life a new color. Thibault, 51, was a banker who walked away from the corporate life and big salary to pursue a small-town, do-it-yourself life.

The jewelry—which customers in places as far from the island as New York City recognize on each other—came only after she decided that working at a job she hated had to end.

The Springfield, Mass. native worked for the Bank of Boston and climbed the corporate ranks, made the big bucks, worked the long hours, moved around the country for different banking jobs—and was miserable.

But oddly enough, it was serendipity, not artistic inspiration that changed Thibault’s course. She had lost one of her earrings, and in trying to recreate the jewelry, became intrigued and found an aptitude.

Earlier forays into other creative realms hadn’t clicked, but making this distinctive yet simple fused-glass jewelry was the winner.

Her business experience, not an artistic muse, “had more to do with success than the creative side,” she said.

She then applied her business skills to the enterprise, getting organized, analyzing pricing, marketing, web sales and retail store space. A storefront in Bucksport was the first home for Five Elements, then Thibault moved to the island, where she had summered as a child with her grandparents. She now lives in their former house year-round.

On an early May day, between chatting with the handful of island locals and visitors, she explained her production process.

“I have really good systems in place,” she said, and indeed, her shop and adjacent kiln and work space are tidy. Thibault explained how she has learned to be efficient in cutting, sorting and handling the glass.

The process is simple, but provides her with endless creative choices. Thibault cuts the colored and dichroic glass into squares and rectangles, then layers them, with glue holding the pieces together. A black piece on the bottom of a three-layer “sandwich” with dichroic in the middle produces one effect, while clear produces another.

The pieces are put in the kiln and heated to 1,600 degrees, fusing them, and sometimes causing one layer to melt over another.

“I create more play with it,” she said of the dichroic glass addition, and just as the sheet changed color when she moved it in the window light, the earrings have a subtle changing luminosity.

This is her eighth season on the island, and her 14th overall, and the bottom line is a moving target.

“There are months when I say, ‘Oh, am I going to be able pull together?'” and she has, at times, waited tables to supplement her income. But there are no regrets.

“I work more now than I ever worked,” she said, “but I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a day I didn’t want to come in [to the studio].” She’s thought about hiring help at the gallery, but hesitates, knowing that would change her life.

Thibault participated in the ISLE program, a joint entrepreneurial training offered by Leadership for Local Change and the Island Institute (publisher of The Working Waterfront), which helped her refine her business plan. She often thinks about the island business community, and hopes to mentor others who want to make a go of doing what they love.

“I don’t see anybody coming up in the ranks with that entrepreneurial energy,” she said. “The more seasonal businesses we get, the more we become like a Bar Harbor,” she said, not a good outcome, she believes.

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