Beauty in Stained Glass
Artist LaDeana Rawlings Creates One-of-a-Kind Art
Many people would not consider working with stained glass a stress reliever, but that is what drew LaDeana Rawlings to the art form.
She first tried a stained glass class for fun, thinking it might be a good hobby. But an illness interrupted her life and put her hobby on hold. Years later, she returned to stained glass and found more than a hobby. She now works professionally with stained glass, selling her work at art festivals, in antique shops and through custom orders.
Working as a hospice nurse for the last five years of her nursing career created a high-stress environment for Rawlings, so when a fellow nurse suggested they take a stained glass class for stress relief, she agreed. It was the perfect fit, and she enjoyed breaking glass. After the six-week class ended, Rawlings bought some basic tools with the idea of making a few things for herself. Never did she imagine that she would go into it as a business. But in 2000, she retired from nursing and began working with stained glass full time, setting up a workbench and shop in her garage.
Because there were no advanced classes, she taught herself through books, other artists and a lot of “trial and error.” Most of her work has been commissioned, and Rawlings said her pieces have gotten bigger and bigger. She began making small panels about the size of a sheet of paper then worked her way up the scale, recently installing windows she designed for a small missionary church. Her largest piece so far is a 7-foot, full-glass entry door.
It was not a quick move from small to large or from home to art festivals. Rawlings worked tirelessly, developing her craft as well as her confidence. She couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to buy her pieces. She did her first show in 2001 at the YMCA, followed by church bazaars and small art shows. Three years later, she submitted her work to the Edmond Art Festival, a juried show. She said she was thrilled to be accepted and continues to participate in that event. She will have a booth at the Paseo Arts Festival in Oklahoma City in May, as well as the Art Festival Oklahoma at OKC Community College on Labor Day Weekend.
It is at art shows and festivals that most people are exposed to Rawlings’s work, she said. She always takes several pieces of art, including one or more windows. She carries a photo album of her work so people can see what she has done and find what type of design interests them.
“People see the windows and say, ‘Oh, I like that but my colors are such and such.’ I tell them I can make the same design in any color and that I can even custom design something especially for them,” she said.
Many people don’t know the options available to them in stained glass. Rawlings helps clients brainstorm and offers suggestions. For example, she has made transom windows, not only for entry doors but for exceptionally tall interior doors, to fill some of the space and offer art at the same time. She has also crafted valances from glass and hung them inside windows, just above plantation shutters.
“Often, people don’t know what they want or how to describe it,” Rawlings said. “But when they see pictures, especially of windows, they say, ‘I like part of this and part of that, but I want a different color.’ That gets us started.”
Though Rawlings actually designs most of her pieces, she also has a copyright-free design book for clients to peruse, as well as a computer design program.
Even though stained glass tends to be an expensive medium, Rawlings tries to make it affordable for everyone, working with clients to find a piece that will fit into their budgets. The design and intricacy, along with the type of art glass, dictate much of the price. Many times a client is just as happy with a color or type of glass that is less expensive than the original one when they understand how art glass is priced, she said. Other times, Rawlings might suggest adding a border of a pricey piece of glass and use less expensive glass on the rest of the window.
Rawlings also crafts three-dimensional stained glass pieces, especially for art shows. A few of the most popular designs are candle shelters, wind chimes, whirls, sandscape art and business card holders made by using the rolled edge of the art glass in its natural state.
“I continue to do shows because I love the festival atmosphere, and it is at the shows where I get many referrals for custom work,” she said.
In fact, her client base has grown considerably just by word of mouth. People see custom pieces such as windows and panels at friends’ homes and want to know where they can get something made. She also has repeat business from her clients, doing custom designs when they remodel, move or just want another beautiful piece of stained glass art in their home.
Rawlings compares stained glass to working an intricate glass puzzle. It requires a lot of patience, she said, and imagination and creativity are the only limiting factors in creating a piece of work.
“Working with glass has sharpened my perceptions of the world around me,” she said. “I take more notice of the shading on flowers, the colors in the landscape, or shapes that surround my daily life.”
LaDeana Rawlings can be reached by phone at 405-341-7784 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.