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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Joys of Teaching

At left is a piece made by my daughter, Shasta Fowler, who is in her last semester at Montclair State University, completing a BFA in Painting. It is a 4" square, fused and painted and fired again. It was a bit of art therapy last weekend. Teaching your own child can be very emotional at times, but actually she needed very little help from me.

Lynne and Barbara

Patrick and Amber

It has been a very long time (1986?) since I taught stained glass classes. Having owned Off the Wall Craft Gallery, with all the fun of bookkeeping, merchandising and other business tasks took a huge amount of time, not to mention parenting and squeezing in time to do my own stained glass work. I forgot how rewarding it is to see others learn and create. Above are pictures from the last class of the recent Beginning Stained Glass series. The next series of 5 classes, Wed. nights, will begin on October 28th. Go to for information and registration forms or when in Allentown stop in at Bloomers 'N Things To Do, 24 S. Main St.

These are a few of the pieces made by my students. Amber's work was exceptionally impressive, having inherited a large collection of glass from her father and having grown up with glass crafting around her. "I think I have it in my blood", she said. I think she does. Patrick is quite comfortable with very tiny pieces, accurately fitted. Barbara did some really good lead work. Lynne's work is now blossoming. John came from New Gretna to take the class, and did a lovely traditional style panel.

At left is a very small panel with incredible detail by Patrick Merritt. This piece would challenge an experienced glass artist.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Great Botanical Commission

My client has patiently waited. In 2007 we started talking about this work, to be installed along the end wall along the roof line of his cathedral ceiling salt box addition. It is 87" high, above eye level, with actual vines that grow on the outside of the clear stationary windows. We agreed on a design with vivid colors to depict a garden feeling. The challenge for me was the fact that my customer, Dan, has degrees in Botany so details had to be artistic and accurate as well. I learned, for instance, that a morning glory and most of nature grows in a clock wise direction. So I actually re-fired fused buds on the flip side that were already done, just to correct that detail.

Significant delays were caused by the activities of my former business, Off the Wall Craft Gallery, at the old mill in Allentown, NJ, which closed about a year ago. But all the while a vision was starting in my head. Last December I started using a stained glass CAD program called Glass Eye 2000 with which I can create designs and email them to customers. I also purchased a kiln and started learning fired glass painting, mentored by Stephen Byrne of the UK. In the spring I embarked on learning glass fusing with very specific results in mind for this work.

This winter the carpentry work was completed and the design was approved. Although Dan approved a very nice design, Shasta, my daughter and design mentor, sort of ripped it apart, so I made time consuming but very good changes to the approved draft. Dan was delighted with the improvements, but missed the irises that got cut, so I promised to include them in future sidelight panels. You can see the computer design in color on my blog on

I started cutting glass in late June, and it is getting closer to completion. Interruptions included a major cleaning out of my attic and Carriage House, with a big "Barn Sale". Last week we visited Vermont, and tomorrow we head south to the lovely beaches of Emerald Isle, NC.

A reminder to all who are mesmerized by stained glass and want to learn - classes begin on Aug. 19th. See details at I have room for a few more students.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Empty Nest Drama

One of the advantages to my chosen lifestyle involving working at home is to be involved with backyard nature. For several years now we have hosted families of barn swallows under the carriage house roof, just a few feet from my studio. They are interesting birds to observe in that there nesting is under our scrutiny, and they constantly fly around us in gliding circles, eating insects, and occasionally bombing cats and blue jays.

A few nights ago my husband Bill came out to visit me in the studio. He found a live baby bird had fallen 10 feet below the nest, so we set up a ladder and I put him back with his 2 siblings. We have observed many nestlings, and thought it unusual that these particular parents were not around. They were not on the nearby pipes, but the next morning they were flying around in eternal circles and feeding bugs to the babies.

Now the story gets more exciting. Yesterday morning was beautiful. Shasta was off from her job at Grounds for Sculpture, , so after our walk, we were having family breakfast and coffee on the patio, a rare pleasant moment, when Bill once again noticed the swallow parents extremely upset and circling very close to the nest. We all rushed over to the nest, and to my shock, there was a black snake draping across the nest!! I started screaming to Bill to get the ladder. Shasta just screamed hysterically. I grabbed my heavy kiln gloves and a garden shovel, flew up the ladder, and flipped the shy and embarrassed snake onto my husband's Honda where it landed with a thud and then disappeared under the fence and into my neighbor's yard. Then I surveyed the damages. I removed one tiny dead baby, then another larger one, and then found a squirming live and apparent healthy one that did not want to go back into that nest. He squirmed out and landed on the ground twice. Twice Shasta handed him up to me and I pushed him back into the nest, and gently stroked his tiny head and attempted to calm him down. He finally stayed put and the frantic parents came back.

Now we have a theory about this particular family. We think that they are an equivalent to irresponsible teen parents. About 10 years ago, when the swallows first came, they struggled with Bill to get permission to build a mud nest and keep it. If it was too close to one of our cars he removed it. He stapled old garden gloves over my parking space to discourage nesting and bird poop over my car. Eventually they came to an agreement, and the same nest has been reused for many years, seasons, and births. The previous parents hung out at night and daytime resting on the nearby ceiling pipes. They were always close by and parented satisfactorily. We loved looking at the babies as their eager heads and wide beaks awaited the constant feeding followed by the exciting day of flight school as they lined up on the pipes for take off. About 3 years ago their behavior changed, so we assumed that it was a new set of parents, and most likely the original parents had gotten old and died. But babies were born with no issues. We have observed a larger group of adults flying together occasionally. We think this year's parents have been hanging and partying with their friends at night.

All day yesterday junior stood up on the edge of the nest as though he did not want to be there, and could you blame him? His siblings were murdered on top of him earlier that day! The parents circled him closely and anxiously as they tried to get him to fly. It was very hard to concentrate on my glass with all the excitement. At 3 pm he was missing from the nest. Then around 4pm, Shasta and Bill observed from the house that he was on the ground. Unlike other birds, swallows NEVER have flight school from the ground!! By evening he was flying in low circles, and eventually found the cable wire to the studio to be a good perch for his frequently needed rest.

This morning he is circling around the back door. Hopefully he has learned to catch bugs on the fly! He just perched outside the kitchen window where Bill took his picture (above).
Exhale. Tomorrow Shasta moves into an apartment in Montclair. More "empty nest drama" is expected.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Margaritaville at "Art All Night"

Today I finished "Margaritaville", accidental art inspired by a precious broken margarita glass. I included 13 more fused pieces and some painted, fired details. Notice the slice of lime? I decided not to give the hermit crab a cigarette (joint?). I am sooo boring and timid sometimes. I am planning to show the piece this weekend at "Art All Night".

"Art All Night", sponsored by Trenton's Artworks Gallery is a GREAT concept! Anyone (any age) can submit one piece of art work to be viewed for 24 hours in a festival atmosphere of music, food and entertainment. Go to for more details.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Accidental Art in Margaritaville

Recycling and being green are the big buzz words these days.

I drive my family crazy with my obsession with saving things, reuse, and generally keeping as much as possible out of the land fills. I compost my garbage, recycle every speck of paper and junk mail, and occasionally check the waste baskets and garbage at the curb.

Friday afternoon I was really tired from a late night at the studio, the heat, and playing in the dirt aka gardening. I was brewing some espresso for some iced coffee and forgot that it does not have an automatic shut off and stood there while it steamed and steamed some more, and then exploded. There was brown goo and glass bits everywhere. The reason I mention it is not because I saved any of the exploded carafe, but just to explain my frame of mind. Shortly after an hour of cleaning up, I opened the cabinet with the stemware and knocked over one of my pretty margarita glasses. It detached from the base. Oops.

So now I get to the good part of the story. With my kiln, I have the ability to melt any kind of glass, so I melted the margarita glass. Thanks to some on-line help from Brad Walker, the author of "Warm Glass", His web site had a firing program for melting bottles. In the days to come I will document my progress. Below is how it looks today.

It is now Sunday evening. After a visit to Grounds for Sculpture and some gardening projects, I have resumed work on a design for this transformed glass. I might paint and fire the spirals.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

I attended a workshop at Artworks in Trenton yesterday: . The morning speaker was NYC artist Jackie Battenfield, a painter and the creator of the Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn. Her new book, still warm from the printer's press, was available, entitled "The Artist's Guide...". Her story was one of perseverance, determination and goal setting. There is magic in directed energy. Read her book and find out!
Above is Jackie's work, "Dark Water 1", 1997.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stained Glass Classes!!

After years of requests, I have now scheduled Beginning Stained Glass Classes!
I will be using the studio space at Bloomers 'N Things To Do, at 24 S. Main St. in Allentown. Owner, Debbie Personette, has recently created wonderful studio space in half of the lovely old "Messenger Press Building". It is the only commercial building in the business district with a front lawn. Debbie, who can do anything, has recently learned enough to teach painted pottery, mosaics, and glass fusion. It is a walk in type of place or a great place for a party with an activity.
However, my classes will be Wed. evenings, the Late Spring Session starting May 27th, if I can get at least 6 students.
Go to and then click "Classes". Although I did not link it, you could pay by Paypal, or mail a check. You could cut and paste the Registration into e-mail or put it into a Word document and attach it and send to So many options. I'm sorry I'm not "techy" enough to make it more streamlined. I am merely a Glass Artist, so please forgive me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Exciting New Glass Art


I am having lots of fun creating work unlike anything I have done before. With each new piece I find myself including more and more painted and fired pieces. I finished this piece yesterday. I started it in my head a long time ago, and then started the design work on the computer a few weeks ago on a pleasant weekend with girlfriends on the Eastern Shore of MD. Myndi and Sim posed for me on the dock in their pajamas.

This piece is a reminder to dance and frolic and to acknowledge the spirits in every living thing. It is a fantasy. I did a lot of experimenting with leafy patterns and shadows and plants. I really enjoyed putting in the background girls. One figure is a ghost like bride in a sheer dress and one looks like the dancer, Judith Jamison, from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. I remember photos in Life magazine in the 60's. I threw in a pinch of erotica just for fun. One male figure had a package that I cowardly brushed away. He also is wearing a skirt. I love the lesbian ladies on the right. I actually was inspired by Botticelli's Prima Vera that Sim and I saw one year ago for real in Florence Italy at the Uffizzi. Wow.

Details from Dancing in the Forest:


This piece uses my favorite palette of colors - the jewel tones. (After selling jewelry and consuming it heavily for 3 decades - yes, it was certainly an addiction that I could easily justify - I had to model my wares. I am smitten by gemstones of all kinds.) This piece features the colors of lapis, turquoise, blue topaz, garnet, amethyst, peridot - I love them all! The shapes remind me of planets with a few moons as well. I started going crazy with painting, trying to master shading. The shading gives it a touch of an old world feeling.


Since the Black Forest restaurant closed and they are no longer feeding the ducks, I bought a bag of wild duck food and I pay a visit to the group who live on the creek side of the bridge at least once a week. My husband Bill took a picture of me which is very close to the center picture. My idea for the border was inspired by my favorite illustrator of children's books, Jan Brett. She did "The Mitten", "Trouble with Trolls", and many more. She would do a detailed border that created another story in addition to the main story.


Anyone who is really close to me knows of the extremes in my volatile personality, that most of us reserve only for those who love us unconditionally. I am quick to change my mood to dramatic extremes. But I am quick to apologize. The drop of melted ice shows a reflected face. It is a small and subtle "portrait". I carved away a bit from a piece of flashed glass (hand blown English stuff with just a thin layer of color on clear, long out of production, from my hoarded stash), painted my face upside down, which is the way a drop reflection actually appears, then put a piece of iridescent clear glass behind it to play in the light.

I did a brave thing today and put my 10 latest pieces on a CD and submitted an application for the Monmouth Museum's 6 solo shows - NJ Emerging Artist Series. I am grateful for the encouragement from fellow artists Ericka , Jude and daughter Shasta. Bill helped with the photos. It was a good motivator in making myself do some decent pieces and I really enjoyed the indulgence of ignoring custom work, shop pieces, cooking and cleaning. I did do laundry and feed the cat occasionally.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Ask Again, What Is Art?

After a recent visit to MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC with my husband and daughter Shasta, the art student, we had some lively discussions again about art. Some of what we saw was truly intended to push the envelope to challenge the question. And yet "Modern Art" is now a part of history, and I am told we are now in the "Post Modern Art" period. Minimalism sticks its tongue out at you and the artist seems to say "I am an artist and I declare this stick to be art". And Pollack's splatter paintings are more about process than result. Ordinary things of good design were grouped by a curator as a "show". Are we fools to accept art of this genre? Or are we neanderthals not to? It makes the artist/curator all powerful to make the declaration of what is art.
Here is my completed piece shown previously as a computer generated design. I saw the original Picasso at MoMA which influenced my recent creation, "Girl in a Mirror - Transformation". It was awesome to see it and all the wonderful work by the early 20th century artists.

I am in a quest to rise above craft to art. It is more of a struggle for me than the minimalists. But I keep on plugging along. I have made a commitment to myself now to complete 10 artistic pieces before March 27th to apply for a show. I have finished 6, working on the 7th, and 3 more to go. Above is "Grounded in Nature".

I really like this one, called "Keep your Focus". It represents my personal dreams and utilizes some nice glass painting, which I am really loving.

See my web site blog for some other recent work.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gallery Openings & Inspiration

Artists are a community. We try to suck up enthusiasm, camaraderie and nerve from each other. On Saturday I attended the openings of 2 Allentown Art Guild members. One was in Bordentown and the other in Asbury Park.

Let me back track a little. On Wednesday night I met Sandy Sandy (yes, that's her name) in Medford at the Chairville School Community Art Show where we were both exhibiting work for the main purpose of teaching and inspiring the children (grades K - 5). Her illustrative style work incorporates soft flowing watercolors with nature and animals. She encouraged me to use all the internet net working that is available including Facebook, blogs, and web sites. She maintains a huge list of such venues.

I had already made plans to have dinner Saturday in Bordentown City with an old high school friend (who lives in Va.) at Oliver A Bistro. Afterwards I went to the Artful Deposit Gallery, to see a group show which included the work of my friend Ericka O'Rourke, She had a series of small winter landscapes skillfully executed with a loose brush stroke style and photographs. The town was hopping and the gallery was packed. It was good to see my friend CJ, the gallery owner, whose gallery began in Allentown in the '80's, and who was the previous tenant of my space, Off the Wall Craft Gallery, at the old mill in Allentown.

Then after a quick stop in Allentown to pick up my husband, Bill, we were off to the Mattison Gallery in Asbury Park. What a wonderful solo show we saw of the paintings of Jude Harzer Her subject matter includes children in most of her work with interesting blocks of space, quilt like, with symbolic elements of flying like feathers, birds, wind, and so much more. Some of the pieces were very large and varied with mixed media, metal strips, and more. There was also some amazing stained glass art displayed in the gallery by Ted Ricchiuti, His craftsmanship is superb and his graphics and painted glass techniques amazing. I am reminded that I have a lot to learn. I should try to find out if Ted teaches. It was First Saturday in Asbury Park, and with the weather so warm, the town was full of people and everything was open. I chanced upon a shop in an old arcade building where Anthony Primo, was selling his own art glass - fused, slumped, lamp worked, supplemented with some other quality pieces, mostly glass. After some coffee and a walk on the boardwalk near The Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen got his start, we headed home.

Being with other artists, encouraging each other, sharing concerns and technical tips is so inspiring. Marketing work is a real challenge. The topic of making art from the soul versus making art that people will want to buy is an age old question. I believe if you stay true to yourself, success will follow. Vincent Van Gogh may disagree or maybe not?!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

What is Art?

This morning I awoke with the age old question in my head. Based on a lengthy conversation with my daughter Shasta, the art student, working on her final projects for her BFA in painting, and being schooled by professional artists showing in the Chelsea district in NYC, she spared me nothing. After viewing my computer generated rough design, she really wanted me to think a lot about color, design, and INTENT! Now that last word holds the key between the decorative and art. As a glass maker (crafter...fabricator...artist) we as a group have mostly held the job to please clients with a vision of something beautiful and meaningful TO THEM!

But I am embarking (in my spare time between custom work and saleable pretty shop pieces) on using the media in a different way - to express something: personal - with good balance and movement, using color to express importance, flow and focus. Art just being something pretty and aesthetically pleasing is not the bottom line. I went on-line to some galleries in Chelsea and saw that the "artist statement" is an important and integral part of each artist's collection. Then I went on-line to see what my fellow flat glass "artists" were doing and presenting. As a group, we are not recognised as artists in the art scene, except for a few whose works are shown at galleries that specialize in glass art, such as Hawk Galleries in Columbus, Ohio, where my family had the chance opportunity to see a Dale Chihuly Show . Maybe it is partly because we mix art with craft to pay the bills. Paul Stankard is recognized for his amazing finely detailed paper weights, and also owns a studio in South Jersey where he and his daughters make limited editions. There are definitely glass artists in hot glass , but even Chihuly does art that is "decorative" such as the "chandeliers". The American Glass movement is still evolving as art.

The sketch above is about transformation. The face is now painted with 5 cut pieces. It represents reinvention and the mirror is not reflection but rather seeing yourself in a different way. It is obviously inspired by (1) the classic Picasso, (2) a tiny hand mirror I did in the '8Os, and (3) the outside shape from the S curves in my brain merging with the shape of a wall mirror in the Marlton, NJ Starbucks. Let's see where it goes completed.

The 10 works that I have commited myself to make are likely to show an evolution in style from the first to the last, and will be hindered by the speed in which they will be done, my newness to warm glass techniques, and my newness in thinking like

Monday, January 26, 2009

Teaching and Learning

I made 2 big decisions this weekend:

1. To teach again

Back in the late 80's I taught stained glass on the 3rd floor of the old mill in Allentown. Now I have made a commitment do develop some classes to teach at Bloomers 'n Things To Do.
Debbie, the owner, is now teaching painted pottery and will be getting instruction in glass very soon - fusing, painting, basics. We are both in the process of learning glass techniques. Debbie is an artist who is self taught much like myself. She bought a florist shop in the 90's and then taught herself floral work. She did impressive painted furniture as well. And now, while continuing the floral business, Debbie is dropping a lot of retail gift selling in exchange for a lively learning center. She is afraid of nothing.

2. To make a body of work to submit for consideration in a juried art show.

I will have to prioritize and be greatly disciplined to make appropriate work for an art show. This is a museum venue opportunity for "Emerging Artists" It will entail making at least one piece per week, in addition to my custom work and consignment work. I will also have to accept that this will be highly competetive, and I will most likely be rejected. But then I will be left with some great pieces to show at any number of galleries. A very big hurdle will be to get the jurors attention in considering glass as an art media - not merely craft. I hope to do this by incorporating a lot of painted details and some fusing as well, and some very artistic narratives. The challenge is my newness to these techniques. It will have to be a quick study. I have already completed a design draft for the first piece.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Art Show

I am finally trying to get myself out there. I will be completing work tomorrow to take to Chairville School in Medford, NJ. Thanks to my dear friend, Loreanna, who has always believed in me, I am going to follow through with the invitation to participate. I will be bringing a piece designed in my new CAD program, and a piece with painted and fired detailing. This is the direction that I want to go - to be respected as an artist.

There is much controversy on the subject of art versus craft. The differences can be very gray. I hope I can go into the light and get my work respected as an art form. I have a long way to go, but I am starting the journey.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Beginnings

On August 10th, 2008, I closed Off the Wall Craft Gallery in Allentown, NJ, after almost 32 years. It was a wonderful lifestyle: working with artists, selling my own work, collecting jewelry and crafts, being a part of fashion and lifestyle trends, being a business anchor and respected in my local community. It all ended when the county government deemed it necessary to empty the 19th century grist mill, in anticipation of bridge construction.

There were things about my former lifestyle that I do not miss: time consuming business management, employee issues, operating expenses, and things you would not know about such as phone calls in the middle of the night from the security company causing me to throw on clothes, drive to the store, meet the police, and make sure the alarm was not a real burglary.

I have reinvented myself from gallery owner/glass gift maker to full time glass artist: learning new skills, using new equipment and technology - making lemonade out of lemons. In a few months I have made a lot of progress.

For more information about Karen Deets Stained Glass go to