Whenever I am looking for a shop to feature on my blog, I always try to look for something unique. When I happened across the shop Designed With Glass, I was fascinated by the gorgeous things that the artist, Carrie Millen, has to offer and couldn't wait to share this with you all. How and when did you get your start making stained glass?
I got started making stained glass when my husband and I built a wine cellar and decided we wanted a piece for the window after moving to MA in 1995. I've been in the arts my whole life, and when I started inquiring about them, cost, how they're made etc., I decided to take some classes at Whitimore-Durgin in Rockland MA. I fell in love with the craft. I love working with tools, creating my own designs since I have a drawing background from the Toledo Museum of Art and Toledo University. I started creating window hangings, mirrors, sun catchers, lamps, probably in the hundreds and gave lots away to family and friends before I decided my work was good enough to start selling. Having done many local craft fairs and even organized my own with a very close friend, I decided it was time to focus on doing larger windows on commission. I continued to solely work on commission until my move from MA to Ohio in 2005. I'm now online on Etsy, and slowly building up a commissioned business again.
Can you explain how stained glass is made?
The process of making a stained glass piece varies due to the complexity and size of the window. Basically, I start with a design, drawn to the desired dimensions. I chose my glass based on what I feel will look the best and generally lay it out. The glass is cut using a specialized glass cutter, by hand or sometimes with a glass saw. The piece is ground to the right shape and to blunt the edges of any sharpness. It is then copper foiled and burnished. Care is taken as to not allow any uneven edges. The foiled pieces are then either taped together or held in place by hand, flux is applied with a brush and the pieces are soldered together using a soldering iron with temps of 700°. Care is also taken to achieve a smooth solder seam, this is where practice is imperative. After the piece is completely soldered on one side, it is turned over, and the process is repeated on the other side. It is then cleaned with a detergent to remove the flux. Sometimes, depending on the finish desired, a chemical is applied to the solder seams to turn the color to black or copper. The piece is then rinsed again, and polished with 100% carruba wax.
How do you create the shapes and designs to make within the glass?
The designs are created from inspiration by nature. I love the sea having lived on the East Coast for 9 years. I love incorporating sea glass, sea shells, agate, stones, and anything else that can tolerate the high temps of the soldering iron. I also love the Victorian Era and designs, Art Deco is fun too. I love working with clients who see my work and give me free reign to design something for them. Having developed that trust is really something special for me, a gift!
Where do you find the objects that you incorporate within the glass?
Most of my sea glass was found on the beach, some from the coast of France where my son brought back to me a lot of it. I comb the beaches while on vacation in Sanibel Island and various other beaches in FL and bring back a lot of shells. Some I purchase via the Philippines.
How long does it take to make a piece?
The time to make a piece varies by the complexity and size. If I had to guess, anywhere from 1 hour for a hanging star to 35 hrs for my most elaborate window so far.
Tell me a story about this piece? [Inset right]
This window was my most difficult and favorite creation so far. The couple built a magnificent summer home on the coast of MA and had purchased a window I had for sale at one of the local art boutiques. They had commissioned me to create this interior door to their indoor pool and sun room using sea shells the client had saved from her grandmother's collection. The clients also wanted to have me represent the 3 primary fish in the area, stripped bass, bluefish and flounder. They absolutely loved my original design, and I can truly say it's the piece I'm most proud of so far.
What inspires you as you create your designs?
I'm mostly inspired by nature and color. I love free form designs, those that look like what's below the sea. I love whimsical designs, and playful colors. I love creating "functional art" for the home too.
What other arts or crafts do you enjoy?
I still enjoy drawing and painting although I haven't devoted the time to either for quite a long time. I'm interested in getting back to figural drawing sometime soon.
What do you do to relax?
I love to garden, grow herbs and find lots of different ways to use them. I love to cook, read fitness and home magazines to relax. I love working out, walking and weight lifting, yoga and Pilates.
What do you listen to while you are working on your glass designs?
I listen to alternative, today's contemporary and classic rock. Sometimes the Food Network is playing on TV in the background. I mostly love it when my teenage kids come down to my studio while I'm working just to talk to me.
To view more pictures of Carrie's work, feel free to visit her Flickr page, http://flickr.com/photos/designedwithglass.