Though the words “stained glass art” may trigger thoughts of medieval cathedral windows, today’s artists are proving that the thousand-year-old craft is anything but outdated. With handmade touches of color returning to interior design, stained glass is gracing windows, furniture and accessories again, but with some modern twists. Today, contemporary artists are embracing the technicolor style of this timeless medium, setting trends in both art and architecture.
Inspired by the stained glass of the Middle Ages, contemporary artists like Lauren Dodds are putting their own modern twist on the craft—none of which resemble the overly elaborate creations of the past. From colorful sun catchers to trendy air plant holders, her creative three-dimensional designs will inspire you to reimagine how you let the light in. Check out Dodds’ work on Instagram at @PrettyPaneful.
How long have you been producing stained glass art and how did you first become interested in the medium?
I have been working with stained glass on and off for a while now. When I first started dipping my hands into the craft around 2013, I didn’t have the money or space to really dedicate myself to it, so it was definitely just a hobby at that time. Since then, I’ve slowly built up my supply of glass by buying from local crafters who had excess or leftover glass available, online or from locals selling it in estate sales or online ads. Once I moved out of an apartment and into a house, I was able to have the space I needed. Most of the pieces I did were commissions or for local events.
How would you describe the style of your work?
Most of the pieces I make are classified as ‘sun catchers’ or ‘functional art.’ Many different styles can be made with stained glass and I don’t stick to just one. I dabble in geometric, art deco and abstract, but mainly stick to iconography and single subjects. When creating stained-glass, there are a few different methods or techniques to choose from. The one I use is called the “copper foil method.” Most stained glass, like you see in churches, use a method called “lead came” to combine the different pieces of glass and then solder the joints, whereas using the copper foil, you have to solder the entirety of the piece.
Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process and what all goes into producing one of your pieces?
Creating one piece involves multiple techniques and processes. Typically, one of the first things I do is make a pattern (if I don’t already have one made of the specific subject). When making custom designs whether it’s a pet portrait or any other subject matter, I first send pictures of the pattern to the client for their approval. Then, I trace the pattern and cut the glass using the tracing I’ve created. Sometimes, I retrace the pattern onto the cut-out pieces of glass since the next step is in the process is grinding. I use a glass grinder with a diamond bit on a motor shaft that spins while the water underneath keeps the glass cool. Once pieces of glass have been ground and cleaned up, I move on to wrapping the pieces in copper foil, which is one of the most time-consuming parts of the process. The foil sheet must be evenly placed onto the glass or the foil may show through the other side (this is often more difficult than it sounds). After the foiling is complete, I assemble the individual pieces by soldering them together. You can choose to use a patina on the solder to change its color, but other than that it’s just cleaning and buffing it from there.
When did you first launch your business, PrettyPaneful?
I first decided on a name in 2017. I started getting commissions through people I worked with. I eventually created a Facebook page and started to really get traction that way. I enjoy wordplay and puns, so I wanted something catchy that really stood out. The craft can be a bit painful considering getting cut or burned so combining that with ‘pane’ from the word “windowpane” just seemed fitting. Running my own business and being able to share my art to the world are things I have always wanted to achieve. It’s been a slow process taking time due to health issues and life in general. I’ve always crafted and sold my work, just never went to the extent of making a business till I delved into stained glass. I guess it was what gave me the traction and put me on the map so to speak.
Tell me a little bit about the different types of pieces you create?
Some of my favorite pieces to make are the gemstones and moon lotuses. I’ve always been a fan of precious stones, rocks and minerals. When I started buying different types of glass varieties, especially the iridescent, this became a fun one to make. Just like with the gemstones, the moon lotus fits into the whole spiritual theme that’s popular right now. I used to make the lotus on its own but decided to add the moon to the design within the past year and it made it even more popular. Both are very basic and slightly simplistic in design, but they catch quite a bit of attention in my booths. The air planters were pieces that I started making early on. My first concept for was very simple and boxy. As I became more confident in making 3D pieces, my designs got more intricate. I decided to do these because air plants seem to be quite popular.