Three Stained Glass Artists

Creating Art with Light

by Susan Thompson

Elaine Zachkowsky

Rose Galaxy; by Elaine Zachkowsky

Elaine Zaichowsky is a glass artist who also runs an interior design business out of Sexsmith called MadeOver Spaces. Rather than exhibiting her work in galleries, she works with her interior design clients to create custom pieces of glass art for their homes.

“This is my form of art. I’d done watercolour, oils, acrylics, and this was like, I found my sweet spot,” Zaichkowsky said. “You know how a painter will often use a photo for a reference and do their impression? I was able to do that with stained glass.”

Zaichowsky also combines mosaic and stained glass into wall art, or sometimes in 3D such as a fountain. However, she added, “It’s not always the physical place. With the galaxies I’ve made, that was just a whole born inspiration. The fracture of light on the glass and using iridized glass, the tesserae (a technical term for an individual tile or piece in mosaic), even glass beads and stuff that have refractive qualities so it refracts light as well as colour, it brings a dimensional aspect to it. The glass beads in the rose galaxy piece give it a sparkle like stars.”

Zaichkowsky would like to do it as a whole gallery show featuring an array of her glass mosaic galaxies.

Diana Lowther

Elevator; by Diana-Lowther

Diana Lowther used to be a quilter. She still makes beautiful new objects from scraps, but now she pieces together glass and broken ceramics to create heirlooms.

“I started my career in stained glass making three-dimensional angels from stained glass and lead, then having them electroplated in either nickel or gold,” the self-taught artist explained. “From there I moved on to doing the Tiffany method of stained glass which involves using copper foil and solder.”

She also became known for her popular series of pieces depicting the iconic forms of prairie grain elevators. The series began with a grain elevator panel commissioned by the Dawson Creek Art Gallery and continued from there. Lowther has gone on to try different methods of working with glass, such as fused glass pieces made from recycled materials.

“I have always enjoyed working with my hands and especially enjoy making something unique and beautiful from small pieces of glass, whether I solder them together or fuse them together.  I enjoy the surprise at the end of the process when the piece is cleaned and I can see the final product.  No matter how many different pieces I make I can never really envision what the final product will look like until it hangs in the window. Glass has a way of surprising you, depending on what colour, texture or shape is used as well as in what type of lighting it is hung.”

These days, Lowther often uses the same techniques she originally applied to stained glass to create unique angels from broken heirloom china, such as a pair of delicate earrings made from shards of a violet pattern. “People bring me their mother’s or grandmother’s broken china, and you hear the stories behind the china.” Lowther’s pieces can be found at the North Peace Gallery in Fort St. John and the Dawson Creek Art Gallery.

Heather McNair

Gazing Ball; by Heather McNair

Heather McNair is a self-taught glass artist who has been working with the medium for over 28 years, and although her work still appears in galleries, she now mainly teaches in Fairview and Fort St. John.

“I think stained glass was the first thing that was really the jump to art from craft. Unless you’re making your own patterns, stained glass is just like following a knitting pattern – you cut the piece and match it to the pattern. I prefer the more artistic end. I’ve always tried to stay away from the picture things, because I don’t want to follow a pattern. I find it boring.”

In her work, McNair also actually prefers less colour. “I like the texture more and the pale tones, like the old antique stuff, the panels with geometric patterns but in different textures of glass.”

Her drive to create original art has led her to use stained glass techniques to create mosaics such as garden globes, and she has more recently shifted her focus to pottery.  “But you’ve got to pull the glass in there somewhere, and glass does really cool things because it shrinks at a different rate than clay when it’s cooling. The glass shrinks quicker and tighter but it’s still attached to the clay so it’ll crackle right on top.”

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