ART a profile


OCTOPI LOVE (L to R): These four boro-glass kraken pendants and ballpoint pen adorned with a baby octopus are just some of the hundreds of treasures sold in the artist's two online stores.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, many talented artists have tapped into a muse, that special someone who provides high-octane levels of inspiration.

For glassblowing artist Marilyn Ure of Utah, her beloved muse is not human, but rather a sea creature that is just as powerfully influential on her work: the octopus.

Over the years, she has created thousands of unique and colorful art pieces that delight people of all ages worldwide.

Marilyn is genuinely in awe of this blue-blooded, aquatic invertebrae powered by three hearts that is basically a mollusk without a shell.

Among the top attractive attributes of the octopus, she relates, is its intelligence, human-like curiosity, “and even its very sad, short lifespan. It’s interesting that such a fascinating critter only lives two to three years, yet other not-so-smart sea animals can live 20 years. People are just beginning to understand the octopus, and to realize it’s just too smart to be eaten.”


To avoid predators, some octopus change their shape and color to resemble other sea inhabitants such as a feather star, snake eel, stingray or crab, or use their long arms to mimic the look of a floating jellyfish (source: Smithsonian).

Moreover, almost every octopus sports about 2,240 suckers on its eight arms, used to grip things and taste their environment.

ANCIENT OCTOPUS IMAGES (above): Artifacts dating back thousands of years from ancient cultures depict this intelligent sea animal using paint, metal, clay, glass and more. (Left to right): Greek coin from Eretria, a Greek city-state, 500-465 B.C.; Minoan Palace-style vessel from the island of Crete, 1500-1400 B.C. (Athens National Museum; jar from Crete's Knossos Palace, 1500 B.C.; encircled octopus mosaic tile floor buried 78 A.D. (Pompeii, Italy); mosaic tile detail of octopus with other ocean creatures (Pompeii).

CFL IN ACTION (below):See Marilyn's "Angry Purple CFL" color-changing octopus glass necklace in action! In first photo, he shines a brilliant purple under normal lighting. But as seen in the second photo, under CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) he morphs to a transparent grey with truly amazing dichroic sparkle.
Not surprisingly, over the centuries the octopus has become known as a symbol of grace, agility, cleverness and flexibility. Its image appeared on ancient earthen pots and wall paintings, and was made into jewelry for the elites.
Today, that same desire to celebrate the octopus is easily satisfied by buying Marilyn’s well-priced, whimsical and Pinterest-worthy collection of glass art pieces.

Knitting Jumpstarts New Career

This American artist unintentionally began her career shaping hot glass about eight years ago in 2013. She only meant to solve a knitting problem, not start a full-time, global business.

For many decades, Marilyn made a living as a management consultant helping turn around failing companies. And in her free time away from that high-stress career, she enjoyed wood carving by creating walking sticks, figures, and other projects for her own pleasure. Later, she began to share her love of wood carving by teaching others this primal craft at a local store. Life was humming along.

Then one day, while knitting socks, a fateful mishap happened that shook up her world. She broke her beloved stitchmarker fashioned of glass in the shape of a little lamb.


Unable to replace it, Marilyn decided to attempt to make a duplicate glass ewe herself. To that end, she bought a $100 glass-blowing kit, and taught herself how to use it.

Weeks later, she had triumphantly made the glass replacement marker. She also was hooked on a new hobby. Each month she found herself spending more and more of her spare hours experimenting with glass-blowing techniques, and less time with the wood.

Eventually, Marilyn became consumed with the joy of this nascent endeavor. About a year after her knitting mishap, Marilyn opened both an Etsy online shop (LakeCityGlass) and a website ( to sell her art made to look as good around a neck as it is sitting on a shelf.

If You make It, Will They buy?

With this new career up and running, the workshop she had organized in her basement for wood carving now had to share at least half of its space with all kinds of new equipment, tools and supplies.

When she started this new online selling enterprise, Marilyn didn’t have a clue if anyone else would enjoy owning her pieces as much as she did making them.

After all, she had a very narrow design niche since the vast majority of her offerings (then and now) are versions of the octopus; that soft-bodied, eight-limbed sea creature of the order Octopoda, consisting of some 300+ species.

But basing a serious business on just one ocean animal couldn’t possibly be a wise business move….or could it?


Fortunately, Marilyn’s optimistic gamble paid off, as orders slowly but steadily began to flow in from in and outside of the United States. Early success meant selling over 100 pieces a year, and a bit more each successive year.

That solid sales progression gave Marilyn the encouragement she needed to continue on this entrepreneurial path. However, it wasn’t too much later that she finally quit that consultancy job to leap into full-time glassblowing.

"I think there's a somewhat magical link between glass and water," shares Marilyn. "Glass is a nonsolid but still moves in a way like very hard water. I’ve always liked thinking of glass as water, as it reminds me of being on vacation in the Bahamas, even if I'm in hot and sunny Utah."

Perhaps that's why most of the critters she currently sells are oceanic-themed. Besides the aforementioned octopi, she makes creatures in the images of mermaids, fish, turtles, whales, etc.

Marilyn estimates that in the past eight years she has sold about 8,000 octopus-themed products in addition to thousands of her other designs.

Last year alone in 2020, she filled nearly 2,000 online orders; many were repeat customers. “Rarely do people buy just one piece; usually they’ll order three or four at a time,” she notes. "It seems some of them actually have became addicted to collecting my work!"

A small octopus tattoo on Marilyn’s arm reminds her daily of her muse, and of how it gives joy to her life as well as brings in a livable wage.

"The business is certainly taking up every minute of every day, but I’m really enjoying it,” she confesses. “I didn’t think it would continue to be this much fun. Now that I quit my other job, and I’m over 50, it’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Old AND New Fan Favorites

A perennial customer favorite is the 2.5" (length) x 2" (width) octopus pendant selling between $55 to $75, on average. The price varies due to the type of glass used, its size, and other design considerations. Marilyn guesses she has created well over 350 iterations of her popular octopus pendant.

While the majority of her catalog pieces are born of her imagination, a fair number have come to life due to collaborations with customers seeking custom work. Marilyn enjoys these special orders—especially those that push her orginal designs to their creative limits, and beyond. 


o what can be seen in her etsy store? Here you'll find cute baby octos, each the size of a quarter, hanging jauntily on French hooks and leverback earrings, or perched atop rings that can swap out glass pieces to suit the wearer's fashion mood.

Even more tiny octos cling to Marilyn's glass "forever" straws (promoted as an alternative to single-use plastic tubes), or cutely curl the sides of her artsy ballpoint pens. Larger octopi are enjoyed as stand-alone desk sculptures, brooches, pendants, stash jar toppers, bottle adornments, and much more.

Upon request, Marilyn will even make a conversation-starter martini glass featuring a (possibly tipsy?) octo wrapped around its stem.

In the near near future, she is considering adding more tropical and rainforest designs to her line, such as palm trees and palm fronds, hibiscus flowers, parrots, or possibly butterflies.

From time to time, a customer will ask Marilyn to  make cremation jewelry. This endearing memorial incorporates a Loved One's ashes into the glass to help keep that departed person's memories close to the wearer.

To many buyers, Marilyn is not just a seller; she's a friend who "gets" their glass obsession and really "delivers the goods." It's not uncommon for them to publicly share their enthusiasm online, or in emails to the artist. Just read a few testimonials:

  • "This octopus is an absolute masterpiece and I am so stoked to add it to my collection....This shop has my business indefinitely. Not only are the artistry and quality top notch, but Marilyn is...lightening fast at replying to questions, and has a witty sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this process from beginning to end...I love my little Kraken so much!"
  • "WOW!! Just....WOW!!! I knew this piece was going to be amazing, but it's WAY beyond amazing in person!...I'm not only blown away by the wonderful cutomer service but also by the quality of craftmanship and attention to detail....even the careful packaging in a nice metal tin to protect this jaw-dropping piece of art! Now I have to force myself to let go of this piece and give it away as a birthday gift!"

But it's not just adults who give her shop five-star ratings. Recently a four-year-old girl in Germany received octopus jewelry as a gift. The tot was so taken by it that she now calls Marilyn her "Octopus Grandma" and communicates regularly with the artist via a  family member.

It's these type of accolates and fan connections that add layers of sweet satisfaction to Marilyn's work, and encourage her to keep the glass torch burning bright every day.

Taking Lampworking to Artistic Heights

On average, it takes at least 30 to 45 minutes to make just one glass item. She stamps her maker’s mark—the capitol letter M—on the underside of every piece (size permitting).

Most creations are made from a "hard" glass known as borosilicate, or boro. It’s in the same materials family as the strong, almost unbreakable clear glass used for decades to make scientific lab supplies and bake ware (think Pyrex).

All other glass other is identified as “soft” glass. That is the material of choice for many of her beadwork pieces, one of which is a colorful aquarium pendant delightfully depicting a mini-ecosystem of sealife.

Technically, Marilyn is the kind of specialized glassblower known in the industry as a "lampworker."

The roots of this fairly new method of glassblowing—lampworking—go back to the late 19th century, and requires a high-temperature hand torch to make glass conform to the will of the artist. During the centuries prior (reaching back to the fifth century B.C.), lampworking was done with oil-fueled lamps. 

After heat makes the glass pliable, Marilyn forms it into the desired shape (without molds) by rolling or twirling with experienced hand movements and specialized tools. 
Intricate details, such as octopus eyes and arm suckers, are carefully added to the main glass body with other instruments.

When the design phase is complete, Marilyn anneals (slowly cools) each item in a digital kiln to increase its durability.

Raw borosilicate glass is bought as a glass rod or tube. It’s only been in the last 15 years or so that this material could be offered in different colors other than transparent clear.

“I can easily choose about 150 different colors for my projects,” says Marilyn. “Typically I use the same 10 to 12 colors every single day, but I’m always into buying the newest glass and amazing colors to experiment with it.”

Every color developed by her suppliers has a distinctive chemical composition unique to that shade. That means each color behaves somewhat differently than the others, and so must be carefully manipulated accordingly to Nature’s laws.

In other words, Marilyn has to be
part artist and part scientist to create her little lampworked masterpieces. 


The majority of glass rods sold today are transparent or opaque. Beyond the “basic” options are those made with metal to give exceptional color, gleam and durability, or they have the ability to switch between two different hues.

A newer and increasingly popular option is glass with ultraviolet (UV) properties, meaning it looks one color in daylight and then glows in the dark as another color. Most rods come in a single hue, but a few are comprised of two, three or even more colors.

“Ultraviolet glass is becoming a more popular choice every year,” notes Marilyn. “It’s a great look for younger people who enjoy the clubs since their jewelry will glow like crazy!"

Another exciting material Marilyn uses is "Compact Florescent Light" (CFL) glass, which  changes color under florescent light. For example, her "Angry Purple CFL Kraken" shines a brilliant purple under normal lighting, but under CFL looks transparent grey with an amazing dichroic sparkle.

Until about the 1940s, major manufacturers of glassware made home products using “Vaseline” or “uranium” glass which glowed under UV light thanks to the addition of real uranium (uranium dioxide) into the glass mix.

About the middle of the 20th century this glass variety fell out of favor due to the price of uranium increasing and other factors. (And no, contrary to rumors, Vaseline glass is safe and doesn’t give off a near-lethal radioactive dose.)

In its place are newly formulated UV glass (made without uranium) illuminating in the dark in shades of green, blue, pink, yellow, red, violet and orange.

Her company's pricing model reflects her use of “good” glass, her time and special materials, and the difficulty of making them. For example, rods made with glow-in-the-dark glass or that contain real gold will be more expensive, as will models with pearl, gemstone or other dangle enhancements.

Since she tries to buy glass supplies when only on sale, Marilyn says she can offer “surprisingly reasonable pricing” for her high-quality, crack-resistant art.

Pandemic and Thieves Can’t Stop Her

When asked this summer how the COVID-19 pandemic affected sales in 2021, the artist shares that she was shocked at how “outrageously successful” her etsy shop sales have been, especially over the last two years. Somehow, and she’s not sure why, the crisis “had to play into the growth and why people are buying more from me.” 

Marilyn recalls that December 2020 marked the month that “all hell broke loose! So many more people began buying from me via word of mouth; it just went crazy."

Part of the uptick in sales was due to a post in a Facebook octopus group where someone said they wanted to buy one of my octopus rings for their engagement jewelry instead of a diamond ring. It got lots of likes and attention, and sent people to my etsy store.”


Halfway through 2021, sales are up 144 percent when compared to the prior 12 months. And the year before that, which included a few months in 2019 before the pandemic, sales were up 140 percent. Marilyn knows those stats all indicate her business is definitely doing well.

However, with a bit of light-hearted sarcasm, she shares there's one indicator that she has “made it” as an online seller in today’s Wild West e-ecommerce world: the sad fact that multiple people in China stole her online product photos and now sell low-quality counterfeits of her designs.

Speaking about her two creative outlets which keep her sane and makes her smile, Marilyn says: “I’ve been carving wood for over 17 years and really enjoy it. While a little messy, you can do it almost anywhere….As for the glass? Well, what can I say….There is fire, dripping glass, and crazy tools! What more could a girl want?”
SURPRISE! Marilyn is partnering with Tropics Lifestyle to give our readers an exclusive discount. Enjoy a generous 20% off your order from her etsy shop LakeCityGlass by entering Coupon Code TROPIC20 at checkout.

VARIETY OF ART PIECES (L to R): Marilyn's oceanic-themed glassworks, available in hundreds of differnt color/style options, include a "forever" glass straw with an octo cuddling the top, a bright mermaid-tale pendant, mini octos to change out on an octo ring or pendant,, an ever-watchful octo on top of a "stash" jar, baby octo matching earrings, and a Killer Whale pendant (a memorial piece to honor Tilikum of Blackfish fame; 25 percent of all sales going to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society).
THE CLASSIC OCTO PENDANT (L to R): Here are just a few of the hundreds of pendant designs available....Queen Bee Kracken, New Little Storm Octo, Silver Pine Kraken, UV Kraken (with suckers) glowing under Black light, Cool Waters Kraken.