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If handcrafted objects are going to persist in our world, it is important that knowledge of the crafts be passed from one generation to the next. Stacie of Forest City Stained Glass creates stained glass pieces that appeal to modern sensibilities. She also carries the torch as a maker of stained glass that was originally lit by her grandfather before her. Stacie’s work is beautifully crafted, colorful, and inspired by the nature around her. Read on to get a further glimpse of her art and inspiration.
Can you describe the path you took to become an artist and business owner? Tell us your story.
I grew up in the suburbs just outside of Washington, D.C. My parents owned and ran a handful of candy stores until I was a teenager, so, in addition to living every kid’s Willy Wonka dreams, I was educated on all the ups and downs of a running a retail business.
I inherited a solid work ethic, but felt no true calling to any profession, despite being interested in a dozen things at any given time.
I was always a creative kid, and my outlet for that was usually writing a lot. Along the way, I found a love for writing in cafes, and eventually, wanted to start a cafe of my own.
Outside of good coffee, cafes are the quintessential “third place” that serves as the gathering place for community, art, and music which sated my creative and entrepreneurial side, so that became my professional journey for 15 years: working in, and running coffee shops all around the US!
Around 2014, I realized starting a cafe didn’t necessarily suit my lifestyle anymore, and I’ve been down a few uninspiring vocational paths since. During that time, I met and married the love of my life which led me to Ontario, and finally, through social media, I discovered stained glass!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh, just everything! I wanted to be a gymnast, photographer, writer, teacher, actor, filmmaker, and strangely enough, an accountant (though I think the reliability of numbers made me feel like it was a safer route to adulthood. I abandoned this idea after one semester in college.)
What is it about stained glass that captures your imagination?
The way each piece of glass is totally unique. There are tiny bumps, streaks, bubbles, lines, all sorts of things that you might consider a flaw in any other glass. But these are true features of stained glass, and each will give my finished piece a totally different result, even if it is the same design and the same colors. One-of-a-kind, always!
The other thing I love about stained glass is the moment you see your piece in the natural light. Whether it’s opaque or has reflections, you notice another round of details that you didn’t see beforehand and it’s a really special feeling. Glass is amazing.
Your grandfather was a stained glass artist and you are carrying on the tradition of glass art in your family. What does this tradition mean to you?
My grandpa Jack died in the mid 90’s when I was a teenager. He was a civil engineer who took up stained glass once he retired, and made beautiful lamps, windows, and suncatchers for family and friends, many of which are still in my parents’ house today.
Back then, I never really thought about glass or the fact that he made so many cool things. I’d heard so many wonderful stories about who he was as a man that I really wish I could have “met” him as adult Stacie. There are so many things to talk about now that I’m not a self-centered teenager!
I do think he led me to discover glass when I was at a crossroads in my life. One day in the Spring of 2015, I was scrolling through the “discover” area of Instagram, where an algorithm feeds you photos of stuff you may like based on what you’ve already liked. That’s when I noticed the exact suncatcher my grandpa made from an old art-nouveau pattern (which is rare to see, and I haven’t seen it since) that was hanging in my kitchen window!
Seeing it on Instagram piqued my curiosity enough that I started exploring the craft in earnest. I called my dad who had salvaged my grandpa’s stained glass supplies and asked if I could borrow them, so I was all set-up on day one!
Through trial and error (ie: blood and Bandaids), I taught myself the craft with my grandpa’s tools, and still use his tools every day, so he’s often on my mind when I’m working. Yet, while he is “with” me, I sure do wish we could have collaborated on a piece together!
A fun fact — I found a receipt in my grandpa’s boxes of supplies that was from a Sunrise Stained Glass in Florida, where he lived. In Ontario, right down the street from my house is my go-to glass supply shop, Sunrise Stained Glass. It gave me goosebumps. Hard not to think he had something to do with this!
Can you describe the workspace where the Forest City Stained Glass magic happens? Looks, smells, sounds…
Don’t let the description fool you! Right now I work from my basement, and the ceiling is a handful of inches above my head (I’m 5’2”).
There is one little window above my desk that is usually blocked with a cool contraption my husband made for me to vent all the fumes while I solder, and I won’t get to the smells because let’s just say there are litter boxes down there.
Despite all that, I’m surrounded by sheet glass, all categorized by color and size, which makes me super happy. I’ve got relics of my grandpa’s all around me, and I’m always listening to podcasts or lost in music. It’s a small space, but definitely a cozy one.
Is there another art form, era, or art movement from which you draw inspiration for your own craft? What about it do you find inspiring?
I’ve always been drawn to the art deco era with all the bold colors, mesmerizing patterns, and beautiful shapes. When I started out making glass, I noticed that the shadow of a houseplant leaf resembled the bobbed hair of a flapper lady, so I created an art deco-inspired piece out of that shadow. It’s one of my favorite pieces!
Many of your pieces show images and symbols from nature. How and why does nature inspire your art? Do you have a favorite landscape?
It’s hard not to be inspired by nature because we’re part of everything around us; we are nature too! But there’s nothing more revitalizing and inspiring to me than a good, long walk in a quiet place outside.
We get a front-row seat to the busy-ness of nature wrapped up in this mostly calm, regal setting, and it’s fascinating to notice how much is actually going on! When I’m not snapping photos of everything that inspires me, I pretty much scan the landscape in awe and lose myself in existential thoughts.
Translating some of those feelings into glass feels natural. It’s more of an homage. As for landscapes, I’m partial to being around water, but any mostly-unpopulated place suits me just fine.
The general public seems to be becoming more interested in handcrafted wares. Why do you think this movement is gaining steam in today’s world?
It’s an inspiring movement to be a part of and to witness. The Internet was a game-changer for the makers of the world. All of a sudden, there was a global platform to showcase work! Insane. It’s really refreshing to see the pendulum swing back toward an appreciation for quality handmade items.
I used to make and sell dresses and skirts in the early days of eBay — around 2000, 2001 — and took photos on this awful grainy webcam that looked like a deep-sea diving helmet.
I don’t even know how people saw what I made, but they did and I sold all over the world. It was, and still is, an amazing feeling.
Can you give a shout-out to another handmade seller we ought to know about?
I’m in love with Jon Carling’s sketches. They’re otherworldly and magical! I have one in my hallway and hope to buy more soon.
Where can we find you online?
Facebook: Forest City Stained Glass
Do you have any upcoming events or fairs?
Every Saturday, I am upstairs at the London Farmer’s Market in London, Ontario from 8-3 pm.
Any final thoughts?
Thanks for the opportunity to share a little bit about my life! I’m so grateful to have found stained glass (rather, it found me), and I’m looking forward to what 2018 will bring. But first, it’s time for a big snowy walk outside and some wine! Happy New Year everyone!
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