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Stained Glass Art – An Interview with Judy Snook-Kean

Posted on by in Art

by Michell SpodenJudy Snook

Stained glass art has been practised for centuries. It was originally considered to be a luxury that wealthy Romans used in their dwelling places. When the early churches began to integrate this type of decoration, it came to be viewed as a form of art. Judy Snook-Kean, an expert in this art form, believes that the expansion of stained glass art is ever improving and is being used to create so many wonderful things, such as cathedral windows, beveled glass, and mosaics for restaurants, as well as personal items of home use. Artist Judy Kean has been custom-crafting her one-of-a-kind stained glass art and teaching this perfected art form throughout Ohio since 1984.

Michell: Judy, please tell our readers briefly about you.

JSK: Hello, my name is Judy Snook-Kean and I am 61 years old. I am an American from an Italian/German family. I do Stained Glass & Mosaic art and am a designer of Art Glass. My Business names are The Glass Studioand Bottle Decor and Design.

Michell: When did you begin to practice glass art and why?

JSK: I moved from Circleville, Ohio, to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1984 to get married. When I moved, I knew no one here, and was attending college at Capital University for a BA in Business Administration. I had a job as a Purchasing Agent for a Kitchen and Bath retailer. I wanted to learn stained glass so I sought out an artist that I took a basic copper foil stained glass class from for six weeks. After that class, I contacted suppliers and bought tools and glass and started my discovery of stained glass and The Glass Studiowas born. I then continued to read books and attended some workshops at Warner Stained Glass of Allentown Pennsylvania.

Two years later, I took another class and learned leading. My next experience came from the stained glass community by attending a Stained Glass Association of America conference and a Glass Craft Expo event. After that I continued to take classes from my peers and joined the American Glass Guild and the Stained Glass Association of America. These two organizations have allowed me to have conversations with peers, make new friends, and also collaborate to work with other artists. The internet has opened up so many opportunities to develop and share the Stained Glass art form now with forums, blogs, chat rooms and social media with YouTube and Facebook etc.

I discovered my interest in glass from visiting Corning and Blenko glass with my family as a child.  My mother had an art glass collection and I loved the rich colors. I grew up admiring the Zettler Mayer stained glass windows from my home town church. St Joseph’s Catholic Church has a beautiful nativity window and I have always loved seeing light transmitted through this window since I was a child.

I started out making custom stained glass kitchen cabinet doors in 1984 and moved on to gallery shows, fine art juried shows, studio work, public art, teaching and speaking. My work is with collectors in India, China, Dubai, Canada, and Paris as well as the United States.

Michell: Do you specialize in any particular area?

JSK: I would say my specialty is new custom designs and also recycled art glass. I have had the opportunity recently to help showcase a new Bourbon company by using their bottle in my Art Glass in a light box. This has allowed me to use both divisions of my company. I have also had the opportunity to be involved with multiple large public art mosaic projects, such as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum through United Way with Guitar Mania and Asia Town in Cleveland with Year of the Horse. I do repairs and restorations but love designing new work for my clients using new glass and current techniques. I am an artist and I don’t give myself boundaries with my work I am always open to explore new techniques and design ideas. It’s ok to be daring and I prefer to do “out of the box” art.

Michell:What is the greatest art fantasy you have ever envisioned with glass art? And do you think it could ever be accomplished?

JSK: I have the opportunity to design and make a large skylight. This would involve working with architects and designing their vision for this community space. It will be accomplished as a final phase with a historic preservation project. Before this would happen, I would restore two floors of windows in this building. It will be exciting to design for such a large space. It would involve me hiring some other peers to work on installation and fabricating the art glass. The opportunity to see light through my stained glass art design in a ceiling will be exciting.

Michell: Tell us a bit about your teaching experience of this art form.

JSK: My work has primarily been with residential clients but now I am working in more religious and commercial projects. I have folks calling me every day wanting to learn the craft. I only teach a few times a year because it does take up space and my time in the studio.

I believe in passing down the knowledge of the art form, I have taught children and even retired men and woman. My main students recently have been retired men, some that were in the trades and they want to make things for their home now. They usually will take three basic classes from The Glass Studiocopper foil, lead, and a lamp class. This allows them to feel confident to start projects on their own comfortably. I prefer to teach in my studio with no more than five students. It allows the students freedom to use all equipment and if they break their glass, it is easy for them to replace on site versus a workshop away from my private studio. I have taught in large classroom settings at community art centers and colleges, and I have also taught students at schools.

Michell:Would you say this is a simple craft to do?

JSK: The craft is not simple but I find if someone feels they can relate to color and are not afraid to explore a new medium, they end up enjoy it. There is a fear factor when handling glass and tools. Most students find they prefer one- copper foil or lead. If they handle soldering, they do well with copper foil. If they don’t like soldering, they usually pick leading. Mosaics, on the other hand, are easy for all and a great way to mix materials, and there are less mistakes. Age sometimes is a factor with developing the skill. It’s like anything you need to practice. You don’t necessarily need to draw; there are plenty of pattern books. Sometimes it’s better if you don’t have patterns and you are forced to draw and design as well; otherwise it is just about learning technique.

There are many ways to explore and add to your technique. You can learn plating, copper foil overlay, fusing, and stained glass painting. You can mix techniques within panels; you can design sculptors that are 3D.

Michell:Do you think there should be more glass recycling that would accommodate projects that help other people such as home owners, the Poor Act?

JSK: I did some serious thinking about these years ago as a glass artist I felt it was my duty to explore recycling of glass because of our environment. Being Italian, I admired many beautiful Wine Bottle labels and started experimenting with the reuse of bottles as art objects. I have included bottles in my stained glass panels, mosaics, lamps, bird feeders etc.

When I have collected bottles and found I don’t need some, I pass them on to users so they can slump them for functional art glass.

My new division Bottle Decor and Design was developed because of Recycling.  I now do:

  • Commercial and Residential Commissions
  • Transforming Tasting Rooms and Restaurants with Lighting and Glass
  • Commercial decorating and design business
  • Stained glass design and repair (logos)
  • Bring an artist’s perspective on the use of glass and bottles
  • Experience with designing and selling lamps made from recycled bottles.

Check out my latest commercial lighting and signage for bars and restaurants! My specialties are art glass, mosaics and glass bottle lighting are all things Bottle Decor and Design.

Michell:Are you involved with any humanitarian or environmental projects or fundraising?

JSK: I recently was asked to donate a Butterfly stained glass panel for “Cornerstone of Hope”, a nonprofit for grieving children and adults. I had the opportunity to be a part of Lisa’s Butterfly Treehouse with Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet on TV. Pete Nelson, of Nelson Treehouse, designed a beautiful Treehouse that included my Stained Glass window in the loft. Everything in the Treehouse was a Butterfly theme. I attended the open house and it was thrilling to watch the children explore this Treehouse. This project was aired in January 2014 and is repeated on Animal Planet. It’s fun to see your art on TV.

Fund raisers – I have made 2 – 10 ft. Stained Glass mosaic guitars for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum through United Way. The projects allowed me to go through “call for artist” selections and the fabrication of large public sculptors. One last project I actually built was the guitar “Saltwater Taffy” in an empty storefront. This allowed the community to come and participate. Both guitars were top in sales at the event. Go to my website – www.glassstudioart.com under events to see images.

Michell:When you are working on your projects what does it do for you?  Do you sort of lose yourself and find yourself somewhere else?

JSK: Working on projects, I do lose myself and tend to work crazy hours. Having my studio in my home allows me to go in my space at 10 pm, if I want, and work all night, if I want. It allows you to get away from daytime interruption of errands and household chores to emerge yourself in art. I go to the studio and turn on my music, and work away with my cat Willow.

Michell: What are some of your future goals?

JSK: Recently exploring moving my studio out of my residence, I have been looking for space that would be more accessible to clients and public by appointment only. Also would love to have better storage and natural light. I have been learning stained glass painting and need light to explore this better. I would also like to buy a kiln and it needs a certain environment for safety etc. Space for teaching and a small gallery space would be nice. I also want to get my business ready to sell for retirement some day.

Juried art shows are a struggle because of the weather and the nature of traveling and setup. I would like to be able to be selective and reduce quantity in the future. I would like to learn how to photograph my art well to use for marketing and website needs. My website needs to stay updated and maintained. With a new digital camera, which I am still learning how to use, I hope to make videos for YouTtube etc. I would also like to continue teaching and pass down my knowledge to the next generation, continue to take classes for myself as well, and possibly some international workshop trips to Italy.

Michell:What is the best advice you could give those who want to learn this art form?

JSK:Take life drawing classes; be familiar with design and color. Always use the light to your best advantage. Dream big and don’t be afraid to ask questions from peers. Join Sgaa and Agg. You don’t need to buy all the gadgets and tools to learn the technique.

My most recent magazine article published is summer 2014 for Glass Patterns Quarterly – Vintage Plates.

I just attended the American Glass Guild conference at Bryn Athyn College June 2014 and took classes with Williams and Bryne of England and a Smalti mosaic class with Carol Broad. Keynote speaker at this conference was Narcissus Quigliata.

Michell: Thank you very much Judy for taking the time to share your thoughts and information about your art.

Judy (Snook) Kean loves working with architects, builders, and any client that appreciates the reflections of Light with Art Glass and recycling. She can be reached on LinkedIn and Facebook. Or visit her website www.glassstudioart.com.   To contact via email, write to: theglassstudio@yahoo.com.

About the Interviewer

Michell Spoden is the author of Stricken Yet Crowned and is also pursuing a transitional housing project for women with an agricultural aspect. She has a degree in Business Science Administration and is finishing her bachelor’s in Project Management.

Update: The new address for the interviewee is: 33760 Lear Industrial Pkwy- Avon, Ohio 44022

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One thought on “Stained Glass Art – An Interview with Judy Snook-Kean”

  1. Judy Kean says:

    New venture for artist is opening Creative Space Art & More in Avon. She is accomplishing her goal of opening a community space for art and classes to be an incubator for other artists with Art Gallery events. Creative Space Art and More will be the Home for “The Glass Studio”.

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