Downtown Crowd

5 Questions with Creatives: Raise a Glass Studio

Aubrie Offerdahl Mertins is a local stained and fused glass artist and the owner of Raise a Glass Studio. Often depicting butterflies, flowers, cloudscapes and other unique designs in her pieces, her work is whimsical, colorful and fun. Mertins shares her stained glass creations through her Etsy and Instagram accounts, both of which can be found at @RaiseAGlassStudio. You can also find Raise a Glass Studio at various markets throughout the city, including Palafox Market South. Mertins takes custom orders through Instagram messages and at [email protected].

Tell me about yourself and your professional background.

Originally from Louisiana, I relocated with my family to Gulf Breeze 25 years ago. My love for art and all things color, light and shine led me to pursue a degree in Art History at the University of West Florida. Alongside my studies, I dedicated lots of time to exploring different art forms like design, painting and photography. Following the completion of my academic pursuits, I transitioned into the professional sector, securing a position at a healthcare consulting firm. While my work didn’t align with my studies, it was fulfilling and impactful. Today, I proudly call East Hill my home, where I reside with my husband and our two kitties. My artistic journey continues to evolve, fueled by a passion for creativity and a commitment to capturing the beauty of life through glass.

How did you get interested in creating, and what drew you to stained glass?

During my years in the workforce, I never stopped enjoying art. A few years ago, stained glass started popping up on my Instagram feed, immediately catching my attention. While my academic background had acquainted me with stained glass through historical contexts during my studies in art history, the modern interpretations I encountered on social media presented a fresh perspective that resonated with me. This wasn’t the traditional stained glass of old; it was modern, relatable and accessible, showcasing glasswork unlike anything I’d seen before.

I dove into process videos shared by other artists and started learning the art form. I researched tools, techniques and methodologies, compiling a comprehensive inventory of materials for creating stained glass. I also researched the various types of glass that were catching my eye like iridescent glass, mouth blown glass, dichroic glass and glass gems. After all of that self-education, it was time to translate inspiration into a tangible glass creation. Once I took that first step, I was enamored with stained glass. Its immersive and rewarding nature captivated me, and after a year of creating in my spare time, I made the decision to leave my job to focus more on my art.

Tell me about the inspiration or influence behind your work.

As a stained glass artist, my work is a reflection of the intricate beauty I find in the world around me. I’m highly influenced by the kaleidoscope of colors, the interplay of light and shadow and the allure of nature. I’m also influenced by magical and ethereal illustrations, drawn to their cohesive color schemes and the sense of wonder they evoke. My style combines a dreamy aesthetic with a touch of whimsy and sparkle, creating pieces that balance playful charm and elegance. I enjoy using elements of iridescent and dichroic glass in my work so that my art can be enjoyed in the sunlight where the glass colors really pop, and also at night, where the shimmering effects of these materials continue to shine.

What are some of the different types of pieces you create?

I create a few different types of glass art. I make sun catchers and glass panels that can be hung in a window, on a wall or on a door. I even hang some of my small pieces on a little stand on my desk to elevate my work space. I also make glass work in my kiln where I can melt glass. I enjoy making small plant stakes to give plants a little decorative buddy and I melt down my smaller scraps to make beautiful glass earrings. I’ve started to make small trinket bowls as well. As I grow as an artist and also grow my studio space, I’d like to work on larger glass pieces like windows and transoms.

Can you take me through your creative process, and describe what all goes into creating one of your pieces?

Creating stained glass is an extensive and meticulous process requiring lots of patience. It begins with conceptualizing a design—typically the longest part of my process. My design ideas go through many iterations. Once a design is finalized, I select glass, with careful consideration given to color, texture and opacity.

Next, comes cutting the glass using specialized tools. Extra time is needed here for a recut or two as glass can break unpredictably. I then grind the glass to ensure precise fits. Each piece is then cleaned of glass dust and the edges are wrapped with copper foil and burnished in preparation for soldering, a crucial step that brings the artwork together. Safety precautions, including proper ventilation and protective gear, are essential during soldering due to the presence of lead.

After soldering, thorough cleaning removes any residue and then, the piece is polished to a shine. When each piece is sold, it receives a final polish before being carefully packed for shipping, completing its journey from creation to customer.