Kristen Muñoz, owner of Moon Girl Glass, can trace her fascination with the material back to childhood. “My grandmother had this clear mushroom sculpture…It had all these air bubbles trapped inside of it. I would just look at it in the light, hold it and wonder how all those bubbles got in there. It was so amazing. She gifted that to me when I left home for the first time.”
It was later that same year that she met people who were flameworking – forming objects from rods and tubes of glass over a torch – in Austin, TX. She became their apprentice and quickly transitioned to glass full time. A few years later, she applied to Penland School of Craft, which brought her to WNC. After eight years at Penland and some additional glass jobs following, she built her own studio 15 years ago.
Solo Work as a Spiritual Practice
As evident from her story, Kristen didn’t always approach her craft as a solo entrepreneur. “When I first saw glass blowing and the teamwork and camaraderie – that’s what I loved so much about it,” she shared. But eventually, after setting up her own studio, she found that help with labor was not readily available and made a pivot in her thinking. “I started using my studio space as my spiritual practice. Working solo has allowed me to have such a deeply profound relationship with the elements; I pray with them daily and ask them to help me and show me something. And with the prayers and all of the elements working together with my own spirit and essence, we’re creating these pieces together that have personalities. Each one has its own little spirit.”
This practice falls onto her list of joys as a business owner. Kristen also takes pleasure in making her own rules. “If I feel like I need to be doing something different than I thought I was going to be doing the day before, it’s no problem for me to go with that flow without having to disappoint anybody or let anyone down or break a commitment. It’s an incredible amount of freedom.”
But, as is sometimes the case, joys can also be challenges. “If something goes wrong, it’s just me and my brain and my spirit. And being able to open up my heart and faith enough to have the confidence to be guided in a good way through those obstacles.”
Meeting Challenges Through Connection
It was that challenge that led Kristen to Mountain BizWorks’ Multicultural Catalyst Cohort, an inclusive entrepreneurship program that provides ongoing business and leadership skills-development for entrepreneurs of color. The year-long program puts an emphasis on peer support, which Kristen has found helpful to her life as a business owner. “I think one of the most important things is now I feel like I’m part of a community. We have each other’s back. It makes being an entrepreneur not so scary anymore. Having new friendships and people that are also dealing with a lot of the same things that I’m dealing with too has been such a blessing.”
Kristen has also received support through the Multicultural Catalyst Fund and Catalyst Grant. “Mountain BizWorks has been truly a blessing in my life in my business. They came forth when I was in a transitional period in my business – when I wasn’t sure if it was time to say goodbye, throw in the towel, get another job. And Mountain BizWorks had faith in me, so they renewed my self confidence in my work.”
Kristen’s spiritual solo work and outside connections with support systems and other business owners have both – by turns – strengthened Moon Girl Glass in fresh ways.
Expanding by Looking Back
Moving forward in business is not all about running fast ahead – sometimes it requires going back to your roots. “I have discovered how much I really love teaching,” Kristen shared. Her studio was recently listed on AirBNB experiences, and it’s taken off “like wildfire.” She’s taught over 50 classes since the addition two months ago. “It’s really bringing me back to a beginner’s mind with the glass. It’s getting me back to that place of asking the glass to teach me something every time I take a gather. And it doesn’t disappoint. It’s really quite something to experience,” she remarked. “It’s inspiring to see other people be inspired.”
Kristen has found ways to revive her own creativity through helping others create and problem-solving beside peers. Her story is one that shows the importance of other people, even in an intentional, heart-felt solo entrepreneurial environment.
Bravery and Grounding
For other business owners, she encourages bravery as the backbone of well-laid plans. “I want people to know how important it is to be brave. And to be courageous even if you’re scared. Because I honestly believe that life, spirit, nature, the universe shrinks or expands depending on your level of courage. And she will not let you fail. If you make the commitment and do the things you need to do, she will not let you fail,” she said.
Her work in the mountains of Western North Carolina – and Marshall specifically – are a solid background for her continued courage as a business owner. “These mountains hold me like my grandmother holds me. I’m really honored and grateful to be here.”
And that first flameworking year? She learned to make glass mushrooms her grandmother would have been proud of. She’s ready to teach you how.
To learn more about Moon Girl Glass, visit moongirlglass.com.
Photos captured by Oscar Molina of Molina Vision Media.