There is glitter and then there is glitter. This is what I found out last weekend while visiting Old Town Cottonwood, in the Verde Valley.

After a great lunch at Bings, a redesigned gas station in retro style, where I had a burger, fries and a chocolate malt (the malt was to die for), we wandered across the street to The Art Institute Glitter.

My association with glitter is probably like yours–messy glue and hunks of red or blue glitter everywhere but where you want it. This is one of my earliest memories of art making in elementary school, and not a fond one. Other memories are of glitter and my own children. Again, mostly what I remember is their frustration and a big, big mess to clean up.

So, with some trepidation, I approached the rather large Glitter Institute. Jim practically needed to shove me through the door. My image of heaps of glitter to wade through could easily become one of my recurring nightmares. So in we went. What I discovered was an awe inspiring array of colors of glitter so fine it was almost powder, subtle and gorgeous. There are 400+ colors of ultrafine, microfine and glass glitter in addition to glass beads and other cool stuff. A series of charts give an idea of the range available.

While there were the expected examples of Halloween pumpkins and glittery Santa Claus in the snow scenes in the shop, there were also samples of work using glitter that was quite inspiring, moving across the line from tacky into art.

The friendly president of Art Glitter, Barbara Trombley, explained how the glitter is made and gave a little demonstration of how it’s used. There is a special glue that can be applied with great control in thin lines. It is permanent and the glitter adheres to it without going all over the place (at least when Barbara uses it). Barbara offers classes and has even written a book.

It seems that there is an alternative to tacky, tacky glitter. Any material of good quality, when used by an artist, can become a thing of beauty. So much for my snobbery. I’m currently brooding about how I might add glitter to my array of art tools.