JUNE: A Glass Act
Creating art with glass has been around for centuries. Medieval Europe used the miraculous art stained glass on churches and cathedrals across the continent, and glass artists today are keeping the time-honored skill alive. At Edmond’s Artistic Glass Studio, Gretchen Schadegg and Tim Brown still create beautiful glass art for commercial clients and art lovers everywhere.
They are among the few who still use glass as a medium. The skill is dying. It’s a time-consuming and difficult trade to learn, artists say, but for Brown and Schadegg, glass art is still worth the effort.
“Most people don’t take the time to learn it,” said Brown. “But I haven’t gotten tired of doing it yet. After 31 years, I’m never tired of it. Every project is a little different, a unique experience.”
Tim Brown is one of the most sought-after stained glass artists and repair professionals in Oklahoma. His work adorns homes and churches throughout the state, and he even created the stained glass Oklahoma State Seal on the State Capitol Dome. However, his talent with glass art wasn’t planned. While attending Oklahoma State University on a Young Talent scholarship for painting, sculpture and multi-media, he started a summer job at a workshop that specialized in glass art.
“I loved the color of glass art initially,” he said. “Every day, I would stay after and work with the glass. I got into sand blasting first, then beveling glass.”
Brown specializes in creating and repairing stained glass, though he does glass blowing as a hobby. He also enjoys computer programming and now creates designs on the computer instead of by hand. “I can Photoshop a stained glass window into a house design and show the homeowner what it will look like,” Brown said. “I think that gives me an edge.”
At the Artistic Glass Studio, Brown’s workspace is covered in geometric, colorful pieces of glass of all shapes and sizes. He has one antique Parisian stained glass piece taken apart to repair and a giant stained glass lamp cover waits to be given new life. Some of his work includes touching up century-old windows and custom designs.
“If a design has fewer pieces, it might take me a week to finish,” Brown said. “I did a peacock window that had 5,000 pieces, and that took eight months to complete.”
LIGHT IT UP
On the opposite side of Artistic Glass Studio, Gretchen Schadegg works with a completely different style of glass art. Her art includes 25,000 volts of electricity, gas and mercury.
Schadegg is one of the only neon glass artists in Edmond, and one of only a handful left in the state. From beer signs to softly-glowing hearts, she creates wildly bright works of art while also repairing existing neon signs. Neon is a noble gas that produces a bright light when an electric current goes through it. Combining it with other elements through glass tubing, Schadegg can create glowing designs.
“I’ve done glasswork since my 20s, like stained glass and lamp work, but one day I saw a small ad for the School of Neon,” Schadegg said. “I was shocked. I hadn’t realized there was a school for that. So I called the number.” Schadegg learned the skill during the 1970s at the Central Oklahoma School of Neon from Ray Lopshire.
“I love doing the fun stuff, but I also love doing the repair work,” she said. “I work on a lot of commercial signs, and I do my own designs too. I love the color in neon, and I also love that I can bend that glass into the shapes I want. It’s like an instant reward to get a hard bend in the glass. You can melt glass, sculpt glass and bend glass.”
Unlike the delicate feel of Brown’s studio, Schadegg’s space is more industrial—machines and tools line the walls, along with signs warning about the danger posed by the electricity pouring into her art. “These 25,000 volts of electricity could kill someone,” she said. “But it also helps me create beautiful things.”
However challenging stained, blown or neon glass can be, the art created from this unique medium is worth it to Brown and Schadegg. The works of art created are one-of-a-kind and each project holds a special place in the artists’ hearts.
Learn more about Artistic Glass Studios at www.artisticglassstudio.com.