LINCOLNVILLE—Even though it was a drizzly, gloomy day when I visited Janet Redfield’s house and studio on a rural road in Lincolnville, her stained glass doors on both the front and back of the house were aglow with moody light. Handcrafted by Redfield, the doors are threaded with asymmetrical wooden panels; it’s like a viewing the jungle through creeping vines. This same light is caught in a variety of glass sconces, artwork and sun catchers throughout the house she shares with her husband Scott Dickerson, a former furniture maker who made the woodwork in the doors.
Redfield, who, describes herself as “reclusive,” is opening her house and studio to the public on Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I’ve made a lot of stained glass objects, specifically for this event, including a bunch of Christmas tree ornaments,” said Redfield, who will display hanging panels, small glass birds, fused glass bowls, mobiles, and stained glass windows and will also give demos to anyone who wants to try cutting stained glass.
Redfield has been making stained glass objects since 1973. A year later, she moved to Maine, where her hobby turned into a full-time profession.
“I started out doing one craft show and I’d never been to one before,” she said. “I had no idea what it would be like. At that one event, I got so many orders from craft stores for my small stained glass objects, such as little rainbow boxes and mirrors, that I called my employer the next day and told them I was giving them two weeks notice.”
Eventually, Redfield found her artistic stride in custom, large-scale stained glass windows and doors, which can be found all over the country.
Since the 1980s, her work has been commissioned all over the U.S. with a recent piece just shipped to Australia.
Locally, her ocean life-themed stained glass works can be found at all the local ferry terminals, while more abstract designs can be found in the windows and map at Camden Hills High School, the windows at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, in Lincolnville school’s cafeteria and at Lincolnville Library. Nature themes are found, as well, at the Camden Rockport Elementary School.
Her latest piece, a 100-fused stained glass fish, was installed in the entry hall of the new Amanda C. Rowe School Elementary School in Portland.
“When you walk into the school, it looks like an aquarium,” she said.
The Maine Arts Commission has been the biggest boon to Redfield’s career.
Maine has a Percent For Art Law, which stipulates that a certain percentage of funding must be set aside in the construction of any public building in Maine for the acquisition of art works in order to support and develop Maine artists and add artistic appeal to buildings.
“I’ve done 30 Percent For Art projects in the state of Maine,” she said. “It is all administered by the Maine Arts Commission, but you have to apply for each opportunity. A committee determines how they choose the art for that public building. It’s usually a competition. For example, 100 people can apply to be the artist for the building and then they winnow it down to four or five semi-finalists. If you’re chosen as a finalist, you have to present a specific proposal on what it will look like, how much it will cost, and other details.”
Stained glass as an art form seems like it would be extraordinarily complex, but it’s really just like forming a bunch of glass jigsaw puzzle pieces together, said Redfield. The hardest part is coming up with a good design in the first place.
Redfield gave a brief demonstration by selecting a square piece of clear glass. Laying it down on the table, she simply took a glass-cutting tool, similar to a pen with a little steel wheel at the end and traced a curved line. The glass broke in half perfectly in that design.
“There are two different ways to make stained glass,” she said. “I make a full size drawing and cut out each piece of the pattern. Then, I wrap each piece in a piece of copper foil and solder all of the pieces together into a frame. The other way is to layer all of the glass in a kiln and fire it, which fuses the layers of glass into one solid flat piece.”
“The hardest part has been the arrangement of colors,” she said. “You can’t see how the final piece is going to look until it is done and held up to the light. But after so many years, I have an instinct for what colors go together.”
Redfield’s studio is in Lincolnville, at 90 Salamander Road; 763-4465. For more information visit penbaypilot.com
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org