Dear Readers: Most of us are familiar with the beauties of stained glass, an art form that has been a mainstay of religious expression for nearly a thousand years, and in more recent times has expanded to include secular themes and new artistic forms, such as the world-renowned lamps of Louis Tiffany. In this column we’re going to meet Julie Rutherford, a local artist in stained glass who has turned her interest in this classic art form into a thriving career.
Julie was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin and still lives in Barron County. She explains that she became a member of the Rusk Area Arts Alliance after stopping at Toad House in Ladysmith one day and chatting with proprietor Eileen Ziesler. When Eileen learned that Julie is a stained glass artist, she told Julie about the Rusk AreaArts Alliance and said the group would welcome the addition of someone who works in that area. Julie says that conversation convinced her to join RAAA, and she has been a member ever since.
Although she has always been interested in art and has tried her hand at wood and fabric painting, woodworking –- primarily shelves and small gift items, — knitting and sewing, Julie relates that she never took any art classes in school. Particularly fascinated by the beauty of stained glass, Julie credits her husband, Thom, with encouraging her to learn more about this ancient art form and how to create it herself. Julie reports that after a short “how to” course in Eau Claire on stained glass making, she continued to learn more about the process on her own and eventually became skilled enough in stained glass techniques and creation to open her own successful business.
Julie explains that a grinder, soldering iron and “lots of small hand tools” are necessary in making a piece of stained glass. She orders sheets of stained glass from a supplier in Chicago and then hand cuts each sheet according to what she is creating. Julie adds that she uses a kiln for fusing glass and also “slumping,” a process that creates a unique three dimensional effect.
She describes the actual steps in producing a piece of stained glass art as follows: First, she draws a pattern of the intended work on paper. Next, she hand cuts her glass sheets into individual pieces. Each of the cut pieces is then ground until it fits the pattern exactly. Then, Julie explains, she wraps copper foil tape around each cut piece and solders all the cut pieces together to make the finished product, adding that both sides of the work have to be soldered. The final step, she says, is to wash, clean and polish the finished piece.
Today, Julie has both a home studio and another studio on Main Street in Brill, Wisconsin (twelve miles north of Rice Lake). She reports that she does a great deal of commissioned work, including a number of stained glass church installations. She says nature themed hanging window panels of varying sizes are among her most requested secular pieces, and creatures such as loons, deer, fish and butterflies often appear in her works. Julie particularly enjoys creating her nature-related pieces and, although she enjoys all colors, says she is partial to working with “earth tones” such as ambers, reds and purples.
Julie Rutherford’s stained glass creations can be seen and purchased at Rainbow Treasures Stained Glass in Brill, Wisconsin (715-296-8818). Her work is also available at the Rusk Area Arts Alliance Gallery located in Toad House, 711 Lake Ave. West in Ladysmith, and at galleries and gift shops in Stillwater and Duluth, Minnesota and Spooner, Minocqua and Egg Harbor (Door County), Wisconsin.