The Iowan

In The Studio With Trieste

By Susan K. Elliot

For almost a decade, Texas-born artist Trieste Cordova has been perfecting her skill in a centuries-old Chinese art technique to share with audiences around the United States. She travels to dozens of locations each year as a demonstration artist for Ne’Qwa Art, presenting a painting method that is little known to most Americans. Dipping delicate brushes into one paint color after another, Trieste carefully builds up beautiful images inside large glass ornaments. She answers questions from observers about this art form that is now practiced primarily in a few remote villages in China. 

In Mandarin, “Ne’Qwa” describes the artistic tradition of reverse painting on the inside of glass that flourished during the 17th century when snuff bottles were valued fashion accessories in China. Trieste learned her skills from a Master Painter of reverse glass painting, eventually becoming the face of Ne’Qwa Art to collectors everywhere.

She traces her love of art back to childhood when her mother exposed her to all types of creative activities before dying when Trieste was five. She says this legacy comforts and inspires her now as she passes on a love of art to others.

What project are you currently working on? 

“We have just wrapped up our January 2013 introduction of about 90 new items for Ne’Qwa Art. I’m very excited to get to the shows in January and see what everyone thinks. This is a very bright and colorful launch featuring several of our licensed artists that our customers love so much. This is Ne’Qwa Art’s first full January launch since being part of Precious Moments, Inc. and I’m so excited to share the wonderful PM influence with our customers. I’m also currently working on some new designs of my own to feature during my fall tour for 2013 and also for our next holiday launch in January 2014.”

What types of art do you create in your studio?

“I’m a painter at heart and love working on mixed medium projects any time I have a chance. However, for Ne’Qwa, I’m more of a digital artist and design our line of beautiful ornaments and wine stoppers, first, on the computer before we paint the designs in the glass. I’m also always on the go, especially in the fall, traveling from city to city during our Ne’Qwa Fall Retail Tour, so my studio ends up being anywhere I can find power, a Wi-Fi connection, and a decent place to set up my multiple computer drives (otherwise known as my little ‘power center,’ haha!).”

What is your studio like? 

“I work from my home in Arlington, Texas, so my studio is a combination of my art space and my office. As I mentioned, my studio is more technical in nature. I’m usually surrounded by digital scanners, a couple computers, my big screen monitor, a digital drawing pad, and my trusty Pantone® color chart, along with a barrage of art supplies (different types of paper and canvas, paint brushes, art pens), blank Ne’Qwa ornament glass, and so many other things. 

“My studio works for me because I’m able to create and conduct business at the same time. My typical 8 – 5 workday keeps me busy on the computer designing and developing for Ne’Qwa Art. 

“When work is over for the day, many times I can be found after hours with some good music on and up to my elbows in paint or whatever else I might be working on. I’m inspired by art of all forms and love working to good music surrounded by art that I love and enjoy.” 

What is your favorite part of the studio? 

“The walls, which are filled with paintings made by friends, photos of friends and family, art that I’ve bought on my travels and also a few prints that I just LOVE, like ‘Starry Night’ by Van Gogh and ‘Flaming June’ by Frederick Leighton.

“I have one piece that was made by a fellow student from art school and a couple of pen-and-inks of the Empire State Building and of St. Patrick’s Cathedral that I picked up from a street artist on one of my trips to New York City.

“I appreciate art from an artist’s perspective as well as from an enjoyment perspective. As long as I’m surrounded by art, I’m inspired.”

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

“As always, I’m looking forward to seeing all of my friends and customers at the trade shows as well as in stores during my fall tour. Even though I attend these shows to promote and sell the Ne’Qwa Art line, I’m always happy to see the people I’ve met along the way. I love to meet people and have gotten to know so many over the years. In fact, the industry shows feel more like a family reunion than a work event and I love that. I know so many customers by name and have such a wonderful time catching up with them while I show them the new launch items [as they] plan their year. 

“I’m celebrating my 10th year as an artist and designer for Ne’Qwa art in 2013, so I’m also very excited to celebrate my journey thus far and looking forward to more exciting things to come.” 

What is the best part of your life right now? 

“It has to be my friends and family. I’ve had the fortune to be surrounded by family over the last few years more than I ever have before. I’m also very blessed to have such close friends that I get to see every so often and enjoy their company. I love to cook, especially for friends and family, so I do a lot of that which warms my heart and inspires me. I’m also fortunate to work from my home, even though our Ne’Qwa offices are now part of Precious Moments up in the Chicago area, which gives me more time with my family. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

What were you like as a child? Have you changed?

“To be honest, I think I was very much the same: always being creative, always with a paintbrush or crayon in my hand, always looking at the world with awe and wonder and always on the go.

“As a child, I was fortunate to have my wonderful mother at home with me for the last few years of her life. She passed from leukemia over the holidays the year I was five. She worked for the phone company when I was born until I was about three and then quit her work to spend more time with me. She was also heavily involved in the local arts council and was a journalist for the Arlington Star-Telegram, the local newspaper, writing about the arts and activities to do with children. I was lucky to be her ‘homework’ because we went everywhere together, experiencing art of all kinds.

“My mom had me in art classes, dance classes, piano lessons, theater classes, and dramatic arts at Casa Manana in Fort Worth, museum school at the Kimball Art Museum (also in Fort Worth), pottery classes, and just about anything else creative you could think of for a child to do.

“I traveled with her to interview artists and even had the opportunity to sit for some of those artists as they painted my likeness. Of course, I also took swimming lessons, gymnastics, and even modeled at Neiman Marcus, but it was art that drove me to be creative and that was what I loved most, even if I was just a very young girl.

“After she passed that Christmas, and since then, I’ve realized that the greatest gift I’ve ever received was the gift she gave me of experiencing and creating art. It must have been mother’s intuition, or maybe her love of art, but she exposed me to a world of beauty and life that I can’t imagine being without.

“I sometimes think it’s ironic that I design Christmas ornaments and am so heavily involved in the gift industry, especially because she passed shortly after Christmas. But then I think about how much I truly love what I do, how happy it makes me, and realize everything happens for a reason.

“My mom knew how much I loved art and I know she watches over me. Perhaps this is one more gift to me from her: that I get to create something beautiful that makes me happy during a time of the year that otherwise might be sad to think about. Mom always knows best, right? I can’t help but think of her and be thankful.”  

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