Not Your Average Stained Glass Artist
This is the first post of it’s kind on the blog, and it’s aim is to inspire you while sharing the art and talent of an impressive stained glass artist.
Introducing Julie Feigum
Julie is a stained glass artist from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She has an impressive portfolio of stained glass creations that are not the typical stained glass designs you might be used to.
I first saw Julie’s work featured on the cover of the Glass Patterns Quarterly magazine and instantly fell in love with her work. It is truly unique and inspiring. When she joined my open Facebook group, Make Stained Glass, I was excited beyond measure to have her there.
And so, it seemed only fitting to invite her to be my first Featured Artist here on the blog.
In this interview, Julie shares a bit about how she got to where she is today and how she goes about creating her unique designs.
1. How long have you been making stained glass? And, is it a full time job for you?
I've been working in the Stained Glass field for 25 years but the last 5 years have been more of a full time job than when I first started.
There was a time I had 16 students on Monday nights and had a mid week class for married couples. Some might say it was a full time job but for me it was a time to build my business and build my stock in materials and glass. And yet there was no time to pursue my own passion creating my own art. To make a long story short, the economy took a nosedive and my business went along with it. So I stopped teaching, kept the shop for selling product and glass and focused on raising my family.
2. Why did you choose stained glass as your art form?
I lived in the small town of Burlington, Iowa. It has many historical homes with stained glass windows, many of which were in disrepair.
I took work with a contractor from 1989 to 1991, who put me to work on repairing double hung windows and rehanging windows weights.
This contractor taught his workers stained glass so that they could repair stained glass as part of his business. But because I was handy at many different skills, I was left to many jobs at hand; stripping floors, wallpapering, painting and sign making for this new Bed and Breakfast we were working on.
So my love of refurbishing old homes and the broken stained glass prompted my first Stained Glass class at our Arts for Living center. All for the love of saving beautiful stained glass windows.
3. Did you study art or pursue other forms of art before starting stained glass?
I took a community college class in mechanical drafting and still life drawing. It was nothing like my High School Art Classes and I was very disappointed with a professor whose only requirement to pass his class, was to have 5 drawings a week in our bin. And need I say anything about mechanical drafting? Lol. It wasn't for me.
My life before Chippewa Falls consisted of retail gift shops that I owned, and catering with my mother in her line of work (chef.)
4. What inspires you?
- My life experiences
- The outdoors
- Old photographs
- Vintage and antique items
5. Do you use any special techniques to make your work?
I'm not your average stained glass artist. I love to re-purpose old vintage items, then add wide foil to do some decorative soldering. I add some wire work, glass beads, old photographs, test tubes, glass jars and stained glass.
6. What about the creative process excites you the most?
For me it's when I see an item, and I can already see it in my mind of what it could become.
Seldom do I draw anything out. Even the wire work is done free hand. It just flows.
Some say it’s a gift, and I say it's anything but! It results in late nights thinking about how to construct the piece and thoughts of it would last normal wear and tear.
7. Do you have a fun/interesting/crazy story to share about working with glass?
My stained glass teacher asked me to make a lamp for an upcoming tiffany lamp show. Now mind you, I had not taken the lamp class yet but my teacher had faith in me.
So she said '' Julie I need a 22" poppy lamp for this show." I smiled and said “I haven't taken your lamp class yet.”
The teacher replied, “You can do this. I have faith in you.” It was such a great honor to be asked by my teacher!
Well three months, and four hundred and some odd pieces of glass later, the lamp was made. Till this day, I still have no desire to make another! Lol
8. What’s your favourite piece you’ve made and why?
That is such a hard question. I feel that each item I create takes a small piece of me.
I've watched my work evolve, and I find myself doing art for me and not really caring if I measure up to the juried art show judges. There have been many where I didn't make the cut and believe me, it’s a hard pill to swallow at first.
I also had great support through friends on the Stained Glass web pages. Thank you all for that.
9. What do you find to be the hardest part about creating with glass?
TIME! I need More Time! Lol
My children may be grown and gone but as I age, my health is heading south and so do mothers and mother in laws.
We just lost my husband's mother in March of this year. I took care of her for about a year before she passed. Then my mother moved back from Florida. She moved into the mother’s apartment that we have on our property. So time can be taken up with doctors appointments and shopping for those items like clothes, food, post office, and so on. I never feel bad about taking them. Moms are a blessing.
10. What would you recommend to someone starting out?
Get some lessons, someone with great credentials.
11. Do you teach currently?
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2013. What I was able to do in the past was no longer an option.
I had four great friends who saw I was depressed and encouraged me to just have open studio for the ones who took all of my classes from beginners to advanced. That way, my anxiety levels would be lowered and the stress would be less.
Every once in awhile I'll take on a new student and they become part of my open studio family.
My “open studio” is where students pay for 6 weeks of classes that are 3 hours long on Monday nights. They have the use of grinders and saws, and access to ask for my help if needed.
12. Where has your work been featured?
I've been featured on the cover of Glass Patterns Quarterly magazine (Summer 2017,) but also did two other tutorials for them; the stretch of beach (Spring 2015) and the bevel star creation featured in their holiday magazine (Fall 2015.)
I'm a featured artist at the Mable Tainter Victorian theater in Menominee, Wisconsin. There, I've been commissioned to take photographs of the Victorian theater and then create glass boxes and jewelry for patrons to buy as keepsakes of their experience at the Mable.
I've applied to galleries but never received any reply, or any invitation to show my work. In Door County, I juried for a prestigious show only to be told that my photographs were not done professionally, my price points were not up to their standards, and that stained glass was not considered a true art form. Ouch! Lol
Many top ranking art shows have very strict judges. For me to jury has not been just a one time try. Oh, and you lose your jury fee too, $35 to $65 dollars! So I fly under the radar and I'm paying my dues. Someday I'll make a breakthrough.
I'm very happy where I'm at in my Art, I love to talk to people about my work. Be it in studio or at an Art Show.
13. Is there anything else you’d like to say or share with others in the space?
Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to be all things to all people. Create your own happiness with your own ideas. Let the creative person inside get out once in a while. You'll be happy that you did.
A huge thank you to Julie for taking the time to answer all of my questions and allowing me to write this article!
Want to be featured on the blog?
I'll be creating more featured artist posts like this one, but I'd also love to create and share featured stories about hobbyists like you and your joy of creating with glass!
Learn more here: Featured Reader Request