Maker behind Madison Glassworks creates modern stained glass art
Rebecca DeKuiper's art deco style updates an ancient craft.
The art of stained glass dates back thousands of years to Ancient Rome, but throughout the centuries there have been various styles and iterations to bring the old craft into modern eras. Rebecca DeKuiper, through her business Madison Glassworks, is one local maker who is creating updated stained-glass pieces.
In each of her pieces, light reflects off glass of varying textures and colors to create shadows and illusions. DeKuiper loves art deco and typically infuses elements of the popular early 20th century style throughout her glasswork.
As a full-time designer with an art background, DeKuiper says she’s always enjoyed making, but decided to pursue stained glass after seeing a lot of creators making modern art pieces.
“I thought it was just so cool to take an art form that was so old and make some really cool, minimal, modern-looking pieces,” DeKuiper says.
DeKuiper started making stained glass about a year and a half ago after taking a class at The Vinery Stained Glass Studio. The Vinery on Madison’s east side teaches stained glass to hobbyists and also sells supplies and custom pieces.
While home more during the pandemic, she used stained-glass work to entertain herself and de-stress — she could zone out from the rest of the world. “It became kind of a pandemic obsession,” DeKuiper says.
Most of her previous art pursuits were more free-form, but DeKuiper says it’s a lot more technical to create stained glass. It starts by making a pattern, which DeKuiper does on Adobe Illustrator. From there, she picks out the glass, cuts it to the pattern and grinds it. Then she uses a foil method — a soldering process using copper — to piece together the individual fragments. After soldering, she cleans and polishes the glass for the finishing touch.
“The technical part of it is challenging and I feel like it’s something people would either love or hate,” DeKuiper says. “I happen to love it.”
DeKuiper broke a lot of glass while practicing her craft. Stained glass is something that takes a lot of trial and error, she says.
It can take a week to create something based on a new pattern, but once she’s repeated it enough times, it takes about a day from start to finish. DeKuiper creates all of her patterns herself for sun catchers, vases and plant holders. She hand-sketches her ideas and then translates them on Adobe Illustrator. When making a new pattern (especially for 3D projects) the pieces don’t always fit together as well as she’d like, so she’ll frequently make adjustments and recut the glass until she gets it right.
DeKuiper’s favorite part is choosing the glass itself. Her love of glass is one of the reasons she decided to launch the business — she wanted to find a way to support her habit. When she discovers beautiful slabs of glass, she sometimes lets the glass guide her in what she wants to make.
“The individual glass itself is so beautiful and just making the color combination to create a unique piece is really my favorite part,” DeKuiper says.
Maija Inveiss is an associate editor of Madison Magazine.
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