A Q&A with stained glass artist Johnny Gordon

Jun 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm
Johnny Gordon

[The above image is “Dogwood Panels” by Johnny Gordon.]

If you have an interest in contemporary stained glass, Johnny Gordon of Gordon Glass Studio is an artist for you. “I enjoy writing about the work I make, both the successes and the failures,” said Gordon. “So if you’re into reading that kinda thing, you should check out the blog on the website (studiogordon.com).”

LEO: What type of artist are you? Johnny Gordon: I’m a glass artist that works in stained glass, fusing, casting, sandblasting and laminating. Pretty much everything but blown glass.

What’s your artistic process? In the case of custom work, I’m generally called on to make leaded glass panels to be installed in their home, new glass design for the front entry, or perhaps they’re looking for some privacy in the bathroom without sacrificing any of the natural light. I like to see what’s going on and get an idea of style and décor and get some measurements. Then, I try to come up with a couple of designs that tell a little story or give a bit of history about the family. Currently, I’m working on four windows for a family living in Nashville. Each family member was born in a different state. I suggested making each window with the state flower for where each family member was born — surprisingly, no violets, the most common state flower. The goal is to make pieces that make your house uniquely yours. I’m really trying to create your favorite space in your home.

How has your art changed over the years? Considering that my last art class was in seventh grade, and I started doing glass when I was 28, I feel like my designing has come forward in leaps and bounds. I’m getting really close to being able to make what’s in my head come out on a piece of piece of paper and create that into a glass panel — it’s taken me a while to be able to do that. Over the past year, I’ve been working on smaller hanging panels, basically taking hand-drawn, screen-printed designs and firing them in the kiln, just like traditional glass paint used in church windows. The idea was to bring stained glass to the masses by coming up with an affordable way to grow a stained glass window. For example, I’ve made three different designs of dogwood panels. They can be hung one at a time as a sun-catcher or, they can be hung in a group of six or more and become a light dancing showpiece for your home. Everything shows up ready to hang and in its own box, in case you wanted to put the dogwoods away over the winter months and hang the ridiculously sparkly fleur-de-lis snowflake panels I make every fall.

What inspires you? I love to make things. I’m pretty enamored with glass as a material. Glass wants to be beautiful. It’s quite different than any other medium. I get to play with light and color. I can change a view of your neighbor’s backyard to something you’ll want to sit and stare at every day. Sunny days to rainy days, summer to winter, morning to evening — the panels look different all of the time. There’s the craftsmanship. Each part of the process impacts how well the next part will go, and you have to get pretty good at all of the parts to make something worthwhile. Glass is also unforgiving. If you make a mistake, it’s pretty obvious. And, most of the time, I enjoy that challenge. Design-wise, I’ve always been inspired by the outdoors. I’ve been hiking with our Boy Scout Troop all over the United States, which could explain the consistent appearances of flowers, trees and birds in my panels. Add that to years of staring at Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh books, art nouveau/deco, geometry, symbolism, Bill Watterson, typography … really, the list keeps going.

What do you want to do that you haven’t done? Oh, I want to take hundreds and hundreds of these smaller panels and make something huge. I’ve made these light bulb panels that I always thought would be fantastic to hang en masse in a creative space. They look like they’re floating — like everyone in the place had a brilliant idea — or knew what was expected of them. Maybe a walk under a whole bunch of sparkling dogwood panels? Or a true winter wonderland with hundreds of brilliant snowflakes? I’m trying to find the right place to make that happen. One day, one day.