Artist creates profession out of colored glass

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Nicki Masterson’s studio on the second floor of a nondescript building, light floods in dispersing hues of amber, emerald and sapphire through pieces of stained glass artwork resting in windowsills.

The Mastersons cherish the shards of glass or “candy” sprawled across their workspaces. Chips of amber and emerald lay spread out over a light table like artifacts or fossils waiting to be pieced together.

“Everything we do is custom,” Nicki said. “We interview the customer to find out what they are looking for and try to give them something that is unique and personal to them.”

Customers can expect nothing less than a one-of-a-kind piece or artwork. Nicki uses hand-poured stained glass almost exclusively. This method gives each piece of glass its own color pattern. Where one piece of red and green glass might have a huge swirl to the left, the next might have smaller movement to the right. Everything spurs inspiration.

“I play a lot,” Nicki said. “With a lot of this it looks like I’m a mad scientist up here.”

Nicki’s husband Grady makes custom wooden frames for the glass on the first floor. Eventually, they plan to open a portion of that first floor to classes focusing on jewelry fusing and creating mosaics with stained glass.

“The first question every time I teach a class is, ‘How many times have you cut yourself.’ I always ask, ‘Do you mean today,’” Nicki said.

It would be difficult, Nicki said, to not cut yourself every now and then.

One of her latest projects called for more than 600 pieces of glass and two months to complete.

“This is her love and her hobby turned professional,” Grady said.

Nicki discovered her love while studying ceramics at the University of Montevallo. She finally grabbed the chance to take the stained glass course and fell into her niche.

“I think I’m better with something I can hold in my hands,” she said. “The secret about stained glass is that it looks difficult but its not, it just takes thought and patience. A lot of people just don’t latch onto it because it’s tedious.”

But Nicki said just like other mediums, stained glass isn’t a huge moneymaker.

“You never really make a living doing this. Whatever money I make I put back into the business and buying candy,” Nicki said.

The shards left over from a huge project, or even just a day of the mad scientist at play, end up in 5-gallon buckets or fused into “conversation pieces” as Grady calls them.