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Mountain Home Magazine

Seeing the Light

May 01, 2019 12:10PM
by Jennie Simon


As an artisan and the proprietor of Cottage Glassworks, just outside of Wellsboro, Kathleen Schnell says her glass is “a combination of colors, shapes, inspiration, and ideas” she experiences in life. Particularly, the artist loves working with fused glass.

“It’s always new and the possibilities are endless,” she says. “Glass can be transparent, opalescent, and changes throughout the day or night with artificial and natural light. The colors of glass inspire me.”

Family heirlooms add special touches to this artist’s rural studio. Woven rugs made by her grandmother, and her mom’s painted plates, part of an inspiration wall, are vital links to Kathleen’s early aspirations. The young artist was fascinated with stained glass.

“I remember seeing old windows removed from houses, and being drawn to them,” she says. “New Hampshire had many artisan shops that displayed wonderful local stained glass work. I knew I had to make it also.” After high school, she enrolled in an adult-education course. Finishing a conch shell piece, she began acquiring the tools necessary to immerse herself in a variety of creative projects.

“I made sun catchers, windows, and candle boxes. My mom got the early work, which she has cherished. Later I added an electric grinder to shape the glass with finer detail and soldering techniques improved. I loved it, studied it, and lived it.”

For about twenty years, Kathleen created gifts of stained glass, and had a piece on display at the Southwest Florida International Airport on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Her artistic vision expanded in 2002, and she purchased a small used kiln to make fused art glass.

“Fused glass is stained glass without the lines,” she explains. “I can blend, shade, and include whimsical details, or be bold and dimensional. The choice of glass—transparent, opaque, patterned, dichroic, and/or iridescent—are deliberate and purposeful. Fusing glass with heat allows layering of colors, shapes, and types of glass. Often a pattern is used in stained glass work. In fused glass, not so much!” A fairly nondescript trivet was the glassworker’s first classroom piece. The next project was a company logo, using sheet glass and powders. Classmates and the teacher were impressed, she recalls. Kathleen has added a broad collection of fused objet d’art over the last sixteen years, and is still evolving.

Work, education, and inspiration mesh together at The Olde Cottage, home of Cottage Glassworks. Here Kathleen shares “the enthusiasm of creating with colored glass, using elements of design, texture, and form.” The rustic structure, west of Wellsboro, along the Pennsylvania Route 6 Artisan Trail, is the studio of her dreams, with a gallery and ample workspace for teaching, kilns, and storage. The mountain backdrop, lush gardens, and acreage showcase the 1880’s-era farmhouse adjacent to the cottage and provide a continuous palette of ideas. In Kathleen’s words: “I see color patterns, shapes, and texture everywhere.” Though stained glass work is still viable, braiding and hooking rugs, gardening, and sewing are also of interest. “We are setting up a woodworking shop too! I’m looking to incorporate multiple art forms in my work,” she enthuses.

To shine the proverbial light on fused glass, Kathleen offers herself as a speaker and a teacher.

“Highly technical and artistically advanced glass working methods are being developed continuously,” she notes. “This medium has growth potential.” Her classes are open to all ages, and one needn’t be “artistic” to participate. The medium seems to have a way of energizing its students as they contemplate elements, patterns, and arrangement. They start by choosing a design and combination of colors and cuts, and place the mix in a mold or container. The work is heated in a kiln, and the glass fuses together. Different glass types and shapes are combined for effect and functionality. The glass can be re-fired for more shaping.

Kathleen is also a “candy” maker via Vitrograph and Murrini—both methods of glassmaking that involve pulling and cutting molten glass. The resulting colorful discs, twisties, and stringers add texture, and create the fun novelties. “If I could not pull my own Vitrograph and Murrini I wouldn’t have half the interest in creating fused glass. When students see the drawers full of “V and M,” most understand why I call it my candy,” Kathleen says.

The juried Art in the Wilds show will feature Kathleen’s work on June 22 and 23 in Kane, Pennsylvania. Recently she and her work were featured in “The Creative Makers of the PA Wilds” exhibit in Harrisburg, through membership in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania.

”I am called to share all that I can,” Kathleen muses. “The PA Wilds, Route 6 Alliance, and Potter-Tioga County Visitors Bureau are wonderful organizations for networking.” After thirty plus years of learning, the glass artist credits God for preparing her. “ rough the studio and outreach I can create enthusiasm for handmade glass design. Working with others, learning and sharing, is a great blessing to me.

“My husband Robert and I have called Wellsboro home for nearly six years,” Kathleen continues. “What a wonderful, quaint, progressive, artisan town it is. We’re finding new friends, sharing the heritage of The Olde Cottage, and developing an appreciation for our glass working process. Seeing a light in people, through our business, is just as important as the glass itself.”

Cottage Glassworks welcomes you to contemplate, learn, create, socialize, and bring your ideas to the artist’s table. Find the business at 13 Dantz Run Road Ext., Wellsboro, on Facebook, at cottageglassworks.com, or call (570) 948-9007.