The following is a guest article written by Aleen Wilson
Have you ever spent time daydreaming while staring a church window? In the dark there is no magic, but light gives it a theme and evokes an image remembered or imagined.
For each church window, stained glass panel or mosaic that you see around the community, there is an artist behind it. Southern and Southwestern Virginia are host to a number of gifted glass artists. Each one is inspired by the magic of glass that demands light and gives color and form to the artists' imaginations.
The artists featured in this article range in age from their forties to eighties and come from varied background of experience and education. They work in many forms of glass art including stained glass, fused glass, mosaics and dalle de verre. None of the works featured here are from a pattern but are original designs. These artists have presented their work as commissions, in juried shows and private sales. They also share their passion by teaching classes in their chosen glass form.
A retired chemistry professor, I primarily work with fused glass in my Martinsville studio called Gallery 22. This form of glass art involves heat which melts and changes the shape of the glass. There is the spirit of adventure in this form because every time you open the kiln after a firing, it is a surprise. The excitement of color and light is only enhanced by the endless possibilities of what might come out of the kiln.
I also create dalle de verre works, which is French for “glass slab.” The technique uses pieces of glass set into a supporting material such as concrete or epoxy resin. Several years ago, I visited the Blenko Glass Company in West Virginia and did a workshop where I learned this form. Dalle de verre is recognizable in many church windows and lends itself to garden decoration. The facets of glass gives another way of looking at the piece because of the refraction of light. This particular piece hangs between two 4x4 posts in my garden.
Nancy Clark is a former primary school counselor and nurse. She started out making stained glass as a hobby and then she discovered fusing. Now, she has a studio called First Day Designs located in Studio 107 in Uptown Martinsville. Nancy still works with other forms of glass, but none of the other forms offer the opportunity to observe the properties of glass in the same way as with the effect of heat. Fusing is an expensive way to form glass but all the fusers say that the investment is worth the end result.
Nancy’s fused glass piece is done in vibrant blue and turquoise with clear glass in a mosaic-like pattern with lacy edge.
Amanda Honore-Donley of Rose Window in Woolwine has a background in art, but the art of stained glass picked Amanda when her husband, Larry, signed her up for a class. She loved the design possibilities, the glowing glass, variety of material and the steps in the process. She also enjoys the challenge and physicality of working on something both large and detailed.
This is the latest in a series of works for Amanda. It is a joyful combination of textured, beveled, fused and handmade glass encrusted in copper. She uses glass in sea blues and clear, because it captures the feeling of jumping into water or watching crashing waves.
Larry Donley is a contractor, farmer and artist. He likes taking objects he finds and incorporating them into his art. Freedom to express seems a high priority in the way he uses these repurposed items. Larry likes mixed media where he is able to use iron, copper, wood and glass in all sorts of configurations. His piece is created from mixed forms of glass, found metal discs and traditional stained glass with a heavy accent of blue. Larry works in the Rose Window Studio with his wife Amanda. Nancy Erikson finds fused glass satisfying because her daily life requires a lot of organization, planning and structure. In her home studio in Union Hall, all of that goes away by creating pieces with raw materials. She finds the visual aspect of glass to be serene and calming in a chaotic world. The way light and color play off of each other gives viewers a sense of calm. Her piece resembles coral with different shades of amber and brown to achieve balance of color and space. It is airy, colorful and delicate, much like a coral reef. Nancy learned how to create glass art by taking classes through Patrick Henry Community College.
Chris Frazier of Martinsville started mosaics by accident. While working with stained glass, he searched for a use for small scraps of glass left from stained glass panels. His piece called “Rebirth” is representative of many of his works. In Christian symbolism, the butterfly represents resurrection. The butterfly's three stages: caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly, symbolize the stages of a Christian's life, death, and resurrection. Chris is an art teacher at Rich Acres and Collinsville Primary and works on glass from his home studio.
Ideas that bind the different artists with their various forms of art are the fascination with glass: its magic, diversity and challenge.
Most feel reluctant to call themselves "artists" and are constantly in the learning mode. There is considerable expense involved with some forms, but all agree that even though it took time to accumulate equipment and materials, they would do it all over again.
Working with glass gives pleasure and satisfaction, even when pieces are not sold. However, there is extra reward in the idea of someone else seeing value in their effort.
If interested in purchasing completed pieces, obtaining instruction or just learning about the process, reach out to your local glass artisan.
Area Studios & Glass Artisans
First Day Designs at Studio 107 105 Church Street, Martinsville (276) 638-2107
Nancy Erikson Fused Glass Find Her Studio on Facebook
Martinsville- Henry County is now on the Artisans Trail of Virginia. The Smith River Artisan Trail, featuring more than 60 area creative artists and agri-artisans was officially launched this past fall. Pick up a copy of the free guide from the Martinsville-Henry County Visitor Center at 191 Fayette Street in Martinsville and enjoy a self-guided driving tour as you explore, shop and taste your way through the many arts venues offered.