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Stained glass magician

Post Time:Jun 05,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:430

You might expect stained glass pieces to jump out at you in this artist’s home. They don’t.

“Stained glass shouldn’t upstage. You should be able to walk in and say, ‘What a lovely room,’” said Sandra Saint-John, who lives in Forest Grove. That’s the case in her home, her studio — and even her spectacular garden.

The garden itself is a work of art, but each plant has a part in creating the beauty. Still, one begs to differ when seeing a photograph of a white dogwood tree in the forest, a commissioned piece she did for a client in Seattle. But even then, said Saint-John, the piece, made from over 1,000 pieces of glass, blends into the real forest beyond the window it was placed in.

Saint-John has been in her current house about eight years. She turned the garage into a studio, and recently added on to that, making room for the classes she has. There, compelling enough to draw one’s attention from the garden beyond, is a stained glass Tarot card of the hermit, who carried his own lantern, or light.

“You learn, you make mistakes, you carry your own light,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot in 66 years. It makes me a good teacher.”

Saint-John took her first stained glass class 28 years ago, but her interest in art began much earlier.

“One grandfather was an artist and a coal miner in England, the other an art dealer,” she noted. “My mother painted. I had wonderful parents and lived in a house in Hillsboro where beauty was revered.”

She’s an accomplished watercolor artist as well as stained glass artisan. When it came to the latter, however, there was a strong connection for Saint-John.

“Glass is so magical,” she observed. “It changes during the day as the light moves.”

She was working as a dental hygienist and living in Hillsboro after she took that first class, supporting her three children and creating stained glass art off and on as she had time.

“It evolved naturally,” Saint -John said. “I’m good at monotonous tasks. I’m disciplined. We moved to Portland and that’s when glass for me took off.”

She soon had a steady stream of commissioned work, including a dropped ceiling piece of peach tree branches for a home featured in an architectural magazine.

“I could let go of the dental hygiene work,” she said.

After moving from Portland to rural western Washington County, Saint-John also realized she knew enough about herself that she needed people as well as solitude.

“I’m at home here,” she said. “My house and yard are small and manageable. I have wonderful friends and neighbors. And I have students.”

She’s found a good balance, walking with one neighbor on a regular basis and finding quiet contemplation in her work, in gardening, and in the reading she starts and ends her day with.

It’s often Wendell Berry, a writer who also finds inspiration in the land and people.

“He’s one writer I can read again and again,” Saint-John said.

It’s an ordered life reflected in her house and gardens that in turn contributes to the artistic process. Again, it’s something she’s learned over time about herself: “Some people create out of chaos. I create out of order. They’re equally valid.”

Saint-John brought out a sketchbook to illustrate how she develops a design. If it’s a commissioned piece, she talks to the client to find out what they like and what they don’t like. She makes a pencil sketch of the design, and then another, filling it in with colored pencils. “I’ve done hundreds of pieces,” she said. “I’ve stayed happy with flat panel work.”

She’s also done a few children’s pieces, including a Beatrix Potter character she’ll one day give to her granddaughter.

Saint-John has photos of her yard when she first bought the house. The transformation is stunning. “I’m a species gardener. I want one of everything,” she noted.

She planted a tree she liked in a neighbor’s yard, and gives another neighbor many of her plants, extending the beauty beyond the boundary of her property.

Truly at home with herself and her address, she obtained a business license and hopes to have more classes and perhaps some shows at Saint John Studio.

The harmony would make Wendell Berry smile.

Source: http://www.forestgrovenewstimes.comAuthor: shangyi

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