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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : features May 2, 2016

9/24/2013 4:24:00 PM
Glitter entrepreneur spreads the sparkle (with video)
Art Institute Glitter owner Barbara Trombley stands at the entrance to her workspace, where she makes
Art Institute Glitter owner Barbara Trombley stands at the entrance to her workspace, where she makes "glitterings" like the one hanging behind her.
Tables and chairs are set up in the retail space for hands-on classes that teach customers the specifics of glitter art.
Tables and chairs are set up in the retail space for hands-on classes that teach customers the specifics of glitter art.

Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD - Barbara Trombley has been glitterizing Old Town Cottonwood since she moved her business there more than 25 years ago.

Inspired by the glitter on a Christmas ornament given to her as a gift by her mother, Trombley, a calligrapher, started Northern Lights Cards in Chicago in 1982.

"There wasn't any glitter except school glitter," she said. "Chunky, metallic, square-cut, large school glitter.

"That was the only thing that was in existence."

She developed her own super-fine glitter and "industrial-strength adhesive" to create thousands of cards each day that shipped to more than 21 countries over a 10-year period. Art Institute Glitter in Old Town still has some of the original cards, glitter intact and stamped with the year on the back.

"I wanted my glitter to be finer and more sophisticated," she said. "So I went about creating that."

Strips of film are fed through a machine with one spinning and one stationary blade, which come together to create the cut of the glitter.

"I wanted it to blend, have a lot of sparkle," she said. "The finest I could get it made, with the most amount of sparkle."

Her micro-fine cut is twice as thin as the ultra-fine cut, which is "one-fourth the size of regular craft glitter."

She had moved to Cottonwood in 1987 and in 1991, she brought her glitter and adhesive to a trade show.

"Then the glitter craze started," she said.

More than 700 types of glitter are housed in three buildings totaling about 6,000 square feet. Tables and chairs are set up in the retail space for hands-on classes that teach customers the specifics of glitter art.

They decorate small paper butterflies and greeting cards with several colors, choosing between opaque or transparent glitter.

"They're pros," Trombley said. "They've been doing it for a long time, but they didn't know anything about glitter before they came here."

Some of the regulars in these classes began attending the Sit and Play class that has been held on Saturday for about a year.

"For $5, they can sit here and use about 100 different colors of glitter," she said. "We provide the adhesive and they can decorate something that they bring in of their choice."

Trombley sells to other distributors both in and out of Arizona.

Though she stays involved year-round, a self-sufficient staff allows Trombley the flexibility to attend trade shows or work on her "glitterings," large works of glitter art on canvas. She's written a book and been featured on networks like TLC.

"I love creating all of the colors, and I love naming the colors, and I love meeting people's creative needs," she said.

Volcano, Ruddy Red, Black Light, Chrysallis and Lettuce are five out of 132 colors in ultrafine transparent. There are 15 other types of glitter, including earth textures.

Trombley said she's seen Old Town grow in recent years after a grant to the city funded improvements to attract customers and tenants.

"It was always cute because it was a western town," she said. "But ever since they did the Main Street program, with the streetlights and widening the sidewalks, it's become more of a pedestrian town, which is lovely."

She said it's become even more of the type of place where people can walk around and wander into shops.

"Old town's absolutely charming, and I like the heritage of it," she said. "I like that it's an old-fashioned town."

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