When one hears the term “stained glass,” they likely think of ornate windows in churches and historic buildings. Glassblowing, however, has become a contemporary trend that now takes form in many shapes from vases to jewelry to wall art and more. What was once made in large factories can now be created in homes or personal studios as the development and availability of smaller furnaces grows with the help of modern-day engineering.
Glass artist Debbie Bean is one present-day maker living in California who has modified the thousand-year art form to include her line of decorative objects and functional home goods. Made from colorful glass that is cleverly crafted together, Bean’s handmade products are meant to be organic in nature and not perfect factory reproductions. Geometric architectural elements can be found in her unique pieces that include panels, triangles, wall hangings, and more.
As part of interiors+sources’ Maker Monday series, Bean shares the ins and outs of her creative process and how she began a career in stained glass art.
interiors+sources: How did you get your start?
Debbie Bean: My love of stained glass started early. I grew up with it in my childhood home. I designed my first panel when I was 10 years old for a window that needed to be replaced in our home. I took my first stained glass class when I was 16 and it planted the seed that lead to me becoming a full-time stained glass artist today.
In 2014, I was burnt out in my career and looking for a creative outlet. I took a stained glass class to reconnect with my childhood hobby and it immediately took over my life. My husband built me a workbench in the small detached studio at our old house in Tujunga,Calif., and I began spending every day in there. I spent a lot of time asking questions at my local stained glass shop and in my studio teaching myself how to do everything from creating lead panels to mosaic coasters.
i+s: What inspires you?
DB: Most of the time it’s just being in my studio. I love the work that I do and generally as I am working on one project, I’m thinking about the next 10 that I want to do. That being said, getting out and walking around my neighborhood is always inspiring. There’s so much natural beauty where we live that I get lost in the details of the native landscape and become inspired to get back in the studio and create new things.
i+s: What is your most memorable product or collection you’ve worked on and why?
DB: Probably my mosaics collection. I created a line of mosaic coasters and trivets with rotating designs for the first few years of my business. The work is time intensive and you have to contend with the elements because cement, like ceramics, is sensitive to humidity. I still have people tell me that their coasters and trivets are some of their most treasured objects in their homes. I had to retire the collection because it’s so time intensive, but I hope to bring it back in the future when I have the capacity to work on that alongside my other projects as well.
i+s: Describe what a typical work day for you looks like.
DB: I’m up early in the morning and I feed the cats and make my tea before heading into my studio around 8 a.m. During busier periods, I’m in here at 7 a.m. I try to get whatever computer-related tasks done in the morning—going through my emails, working on invoices, and figuring out where I am at with orders. If anything has come in overnight that I have in stock, I get that packaged to go out.
The rest of my day is spent at my workbench and if I have help in the studio that day, cutting down glass or setting up their workbench for what I need done for the day. Lately, I have been designing more on my computer for my new line of posters and home goods collection that’s coming out, so I jump between designing and making orders throughout the day. A couple days a week you’ll find me at my yoga studio. It’s what allows me to work long hours at my workbench without throwing my back out. If I’m lucky, my husband and I will find an hour to spend together in the evening before I fall asleep and do it all over again the next day.
i+s: Name some must-haves you need or like to have on-hand when starting a new project.
DB: Lots of glass samples! I like to play with the glass and see how the colors interact with each other.
i+s: What challenges you most during your creative process?
DB: To push through even if I feel like I’m not 100 percent connected to what I am doing. It’s going to happen. You are going to experience fatigue with your medium and the trick is to keep on going, because you will get past it and reconnect with what you love about it and become inspired to do more.
i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?
DB: All the light that pours in. I converted my garage into my studio and spend most days working with my garage door open. It allows me to feel connected to the outdoors when working long days. It’s nice to hear all the birds and animals in my neighborhood—especially the peacocks!
i+s: What’s your favorite color?
DB: I vacillate between turquoise and sage green.
i+s: What is your favorite design era?
DB: I love mid-century modern design for architecture and furnishings. I definitely feel most connected with the Bauhaus movement.
i+s: Who has helped you realize your dreams?
DB: My husband. He has been unwavering in his support of me. From the beginning he encouraged me to keep going when I was worried about what would happen financially and even now, when I feel overwhelmed with all the work I have to do, he continues to support me and tell me he believes in me. I’m eternally grateful to him.
i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?
DB: I see a lot of crossovers in the design field. Artists from different backgrounds collaborating on furniture and textiles and lending their artistic view to new mediums which I find very exciting.
It’s a big reason Poster Child Prints (PCP) approached me to design a series for them. I have always done my own branding from my logo to holiday cards, and Sonja [Teri, founder of PCP] thought I should explore making posters. It felt like a serendipitous conversation because it was on my wish list for things to do this year and specifically with PCP.
i+s: What’s next for you?
DB: Expanding beyond my stained glass collection. I have a limited edition print series coming out with Poster Child Prints. I am also relaunching my pillow collection directly on my website with some new fun home goods products. I also just got a kiln for my studio and I’m excited to work on a new fused glass series.
i+s: Where can people find your goods?