The Pacific Northwest is home to one of the most celebrated and well-known glass artists in the world, Dale Chihuly. A museum devoted to studio glass was opened in Tacoma in 2002. Did you know that you do not have to travel that far up I-5 to see beautiful glass art? We are fortunate to have a resident glass artist right here in Olympia.

Janet Schrader is one of the founding members of the SPLASH Art Gallery, located in downtown Olympia. She works at the gallery, and her fused glass is displayed in the windows of SPLASH. Schrader was born and raised in the Boston Harbor area. A very creative person, she always enjoyed art including painting, sketching and sculpting, but nothing captured her interest quite like the artistic medium of glass.

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Janet Schrader finds working in glass both challenging and more rewarding than other mediums. Photo credit: Carrie Bell.

In 1979 Schrader took a stained-glass class at Colony Glassworks. She learned how to create and build beautiful stained-glass panels. Working with glass was unlike anything else she had done. “Glass is always changing with the light,” explains Schrader. “Paintings and drawing are static; glass alters with the time of day and even the season,” says Schrader.

Ten years later, Schrader bought her first piece of dichroic glass. The word dichroic comes from two Greek words meaning “two” and “light.” Dichroic glass contains metals and oxides that result in a type that has two colors. The different colors are seen, dependent on light, reflection or angle of view. Ancient examples of dichroic glass contain gold and silver particles that cause the color changes. Modern glass of this nature was originally invented for the optics industry. It has the ability to block and filter certain wavelengths of light.

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A recent class created scenes of coral reefs with colored glass fused together in the kiln. Photo credit: Carrie Bell.

Schrader simply saw its beauty and the potential to fuse the glass together, resulting in an endless array of colors and patterns. Most glass sold today can be purchased by the square foot. Dichroic glass is sold by the square-inch. Schrader knew that making glass panels with that type of glass was not an option, so she began making jewelry. At the time the art glass industry was just developing. She did not have much instruction and eventually taught herself the art of glass fusing by experimenting with time and temperature. “I love color,” says Schrader. “Fusing glass gives me the freedom to create and experiment with infinite possibilities.”

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Large sheets of colored glass are stored in Janet Schrader’s Boston Harbor Studio. Photo credit: Carrie Bell.

Schrader teaches glass art classes in her studio in Boston Harbor. The building is filled with beautiful examples of her work. The studio, which sits on the same property as her childhood home, is a stone’s throw from the Boston Harbor Marina. The waterfront has provided the inspiration for her famous, three-dimensional jellyfish sculptures. They hang from the ceiling, their colorful tentacles reflecting the morning light.

A recent class of Schrader’s learned how to create a realistic landscape in glass. She constructs the scenes by starting with a base glass. Building the scene with additional pieces of glass stacked on top of the base, the artist creates a textured portrait. This wall art is a new way for Schrader to express herself in glass. Once all the glass is in place, it is put into the kiln and fused together at 1300-1350 degrees. “I still get excited to open the kiln door,” Schrader tells me. “It is never exactly what you think, and I almost always pleasantly surprised.”

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Crystals of colored glass called frit line the walls of Janet Schrader’s glass studio. Photo credit: Carrie Bell.

Recently Schrader visited Spain and the Canary Islands. She traveled to get some sun and did not intend to think about work and the studio. She not only relished the sun, but she was also filled with inspiration from the gorgeous landscape. It was the volcanic rock pools that inspired the piece she will present at the SPLASH Art Gallery unveiling later this month. It is a surprise even for her fellow artists, but I had a sneak peek, and it is breathtaking. The colors and what she is able to express with pieces of glass fused together is unique and truly unlike any other art I have seen.

If you would like to learn more about Janet Schrader or are interested in taking a class on glass art, visit her website. She does both half and full-day classes for a maximum of eight people. All participants are provided with the materials needed to go home with a beautiful project. After seeing the possibilities, I am thinking of gathering a group of girlfriends and scheduling a class. Who is joining me?

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