When I took my first stained glass class twelve + years ago at Wonderland Stained Glass, it wasn’t so much that I had always wanted to learn how to do stained glass. I just wanted to get out of the house. My daughter was 4, my son was 12. For an hour twice a week I had permission to be somewhere else, talking to other grownups, learning something new, making stuff.
About a year later, Jim Marsh, my dogs’ obedience instructor at Great Lakes K-9, suggested I start doing pet portraits in glass. He loves stained glass and he loves dogs, so to him it seemed an obvious fit. I started making my own patterns and building an inventory with a plan to do craft shows and dog shows. My first show was an Easter weekend at the Steel City Kennel Club’s dog show at the Lake County fairgrounds. I made enough to pay my booth rental and got a few custom orders as well, and that was it: I was hooked.
The more I worked with custom orders, the more I felt the limits of what I could do with basic stained glass. Glass doesn’t come in “brindle,” for example, and I prefer portraits that are more representational than abstract, so my search for brindle glass ultimately led me to fusing, which is a whole other ball of wax. In a nutshell, it’s fun to melt stuff. You can never be completely sure what you’re going to get until you open the kiln (generally about 12 hours after you closed it). Every piece is different, and I’m always experimenting with new techniques. Some portraits come out great the first time; others take 3 or 4 attempts. It’s the challenge of creating something just so in a medium that changes as the light changes that keeps me at it.
I love working with glass. I do all of my work in my basement studio (aka “The Laundry Room”) which opens conveniently onto my garden. I say conveniently because the dogs (2 of them) are constantly going in and out all day. (In the summer I just leave the door open.) Even with all of their busy comings and goings, they keep an eye on me, reminding me when it’s time to eat, or get a drink of water, or play tug. All in all, not a bad way to pass the time.
That brings me up to today . I don’t do shows anymore. My daughter is a swimmer, and swim meets and craft/art shows tend to fall on the same weekends. I’m hoping to reach a wide enough audience where I can sell some pieces I’ve already made and continue to do custom orders in between watching swimmers swim, dogs play, leaves change, and my laundry pile grow bigger.