If the first words you think of when you hear the word glass in relation to home décor are brass and chandelier, well, you’re a few years behind the curve.
Today, glass might refer to the kitchen countertop, where multicolored shards of recycled wine bottles might be embedded to create a colorful and durable surface.
Or glass might refer to a kitchen backsplash made of clear, colored or mirrored mosaic-style tiles – or even sheets of clear or colored glass lit in neon colors.
Ceiling-hung, stained-glass panels can divide space when a great room is just too, well, great. Window-hung panels provide some privacy for that garden tub.
And art glass finds its way into fresh, modern takes on typical uses in decorative lighting fixtures and lamps, vases, bowls, drinking vessels and wall décor.
I do think glass is a trend, says Marcia Gabet, a local fused- and mosaic-glass artist who creates custom pieces for interior designs.
As a measure of the rising profile of glass, two major exhibits of art glass adaptable to home décor are taking place in Fort Wayne.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is featuring The Summer of Glass – a three-part exhibit that includes pieces by internationally known glass artist Dale Chihuly of Seattle; The Next Generation of Studio Glass; and winners of the 41st annual Studio Glass Invitational presented by Habatat Galleries in Detroit. As a complement, the museum’s Paradigm Gallery is spotlighting at least four area glass artists’ items for sale.
Meanwhile, the Orchard Gallery of Fine Art in Fort Wayne, owned and run by area artists, is featuring items by several glass artists through July 30.
Ferdinand Hampson, owner of Habatat Galleries, the oldest and largest U.S. gallery devoted exclusively to glass artists, says interest in art glass items is growing.
It’s probably the fastest-growing medium in the world, I would say – actually in demand for it, he says of art glass. And, the numbers of people making it are astonishing. We’re estimating that 15,000 people worldwide are making a living from making glass in a studio setting.
The green trend is also spurring demand, says Chad Rosen, sales manager for Vetrazzo, which makes countertops using recycled glass.
He calls them a sustainable alternative to natural stone such as marble or granite and says each manufactured slab diverts up to 1,000 bottles from landfills.
That’s a lot of bottle, he says. We call that upcycling – creating a new product from a product that otherwise would be at the end of its life cycle.
Scott Zeeb, a builder with Dennis Spidel Custom Homes in Angola, installed a glass-inlay kitchen countertop at his own home in Angola. A winemaker who grows his own grapes, Zeeb says he thought it appropriate to incorporate green and blue wine bottles into the kitchen.
The surfaces can be heavy and labor-intensive. But they hold up, he says.
Mike Brumbaugh, a 77-year-old blown-glass artist from Bryan, Ohio, says people often collect his pieces for décor. He sells items during the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival and also is featured at the art museum shop.
He says art glass items now are typically conceived and executed by a single artist working independently in a studio, instead of in a factory ruled by division of labor and mass production.
The (art) glass movement didn’t get started until the 1960s, so it’s a relatively new form and that’s interesting to people, he says. Painting has been around, and ceramics has been around, and clay has been around. But glass is just a different medium that’s not traditional art, and people can get a unique piece.
Glass has an appealing way of playing with the light in a room, says Fort Wayne interior designer Cindy Friend, owner of Cindy Friend Boutique in Covington Plaza.
One of the big things is the texture. It shines, and it blings with light, and I think that’s attractive to people. Plus it comes in pretty colors, and it’s so versatile. I can use it in just about any room in the home.
Friend particularly likes glass tiles in a kitchen or bathroom backsplash.
Oh yes, I love that look, she says. When you apply glass as a backsplash, not only does it give pop and interest, but it’s also very maintenance free, compared to natural stone or brick. All you need is a little glass cleaner or soap and water and the grease from cooking comes right off.
In an time when neutrals reign in décor, a bright red, orange, blue or green glass object can make a huge difference, says Danielle Payne, owner of GlassLink studio, 516 Noble Drive. The studio offers lessons in fused-glass techniques, and Payne has been commissioned for interior design pieces, especially large vases.
Everything I hear is that it’s the colors, the gemlike quality (that attracts people), she says. I think people shy away from color when they decorate, until they realize what it can do.
Gabet, 66, formerly a children’s book illustrator, has worked on commission and sells through Artlink’s gallery at 300 E. Main St.
I usually do a kind of modern theme and a graphic look, based on shapes and lines. And I do a lot of color-blocking, and people seem to like that for home décor, she says. Besides containers and plates she also does mirrors and wall hangings.
I can go into a house and pick up on a fabric or design element and make something from it to match it or go with it or tie things together, she says. I think some of it (the appeal of glass) is that it’s unusual. It’s not the typical painted picture on the wall; it’s different.
And I think there are people in Fort Wayne that are hungry for something more modern.