When Nikki Root moved to Cache Valley in 1994, she realized her new house was missing something.
“My husband and I moved here from Atlanta,” she says. “In Atlanta, we had stained glass in our home and once you have stained glass in your home, you cannot live without it.”
A do-it-yourself person, Root decided to make stained-glass windows for her new home on her own. “I took a class to make sure I could do it and learned how. Then I self-taught all of the other techniques that I use.”
Now, she teaches the class she was once a student in. “I’ve taught it for several years… It’s through the Logan City School District. They hold it three times a year and it’s a six-week course. I just teach the basics. I teach (people) how to cut the glass and how to solder.”
Along with teaching, Root has turned her love of stained glass into a professional calling: designing, creating and repairing windows and other art pieces — including jewelry, picture frames, boxes and even lamp shades — for customers from all over the valley and out of state.
“I do custom (things) for people’s windows. I do sidelights and transoms… You can do picture frames, you can do jewelry boxes, you can do jewelry,” she says. “A lot of people (bring me) their family heirloom pieces that are tucked away or chipped and I’m able to make panels for them to enjoy.”
On top of that, “you’ve got to determine the people’s needs, because sometimes they want to see through (the stained glass) and a lot of times they want privacy,” Root says. The glass selection is done very carefully depending on the needs of the customer.”
Although she normally advertises her work online and through word of mouth, this year she opened a booth at Summerfest to showcase some of her pieces. After a positive experience and lining up some work at the event, she considers the move a smart one and plans to take part in the event next year as well.
For those interested in making their own stained glass, some investment is required.
“Getting started in stained glass is actually quite pricey,” Root says. “You can easily have $150 invested in tools. After that, you just need to buy solder (a lead and tin composite) and glass.”
The work itself is also demanding and can be fraught with problems.
The design stage requires the foresight to see how each piece of glass should lay and how the solder outline ties it all together. The glass is “cut” by scoring its surface with a cutting tool to encourage it to break a certain way, which does not always work out. The solder is melted and cooled into whatever design the outline calls for.
Repair work carries its own set of challenges, Root says. “Repairs are challenging because most of them are older pieces and it’s next to impossible to find the exact same glass and also even the metal they used. So I’ve had to actually hand craft some metal channels to imitate and to match.”
None of this extensive work appears to bother her either. “I love it,” she says. “I love repairing.”
In her quest to learn ever more challenging techniques, Root has also fallen in love with bottle bottoms.
“This last year, what I’m branching out into is incorporating bottle bottoms… It creates more of a three-dimensional effect,” she says. However, the 3D effect also means more work. The glass is thicker and uneven so it requires more effort and skill to craft a piece containing bottle bottoms. She also travels all over, frequenting garage sales, stores and more, in search of vintage glass pieces — plates, bowls, vases and cups — to incorporate into her bottle bottom designs.
But, it’s worth it.
“It takes stained glass from being stained glass to being a one of a kind, unique piece of art ... You can do a piece (of stained glass) and (a stained glass artist) can take a picture of it and then go home and make it themselves,” but a bottle bottom piece cannot be exactly reproduced, Root says.
There’s no shortage of inspiration for such pieces.
“The ideas are endless and I can’t keep up with my ideas.”
For more information or to commission work, email info@bottomsUPglass.com