Sunday, November 23, 2003
OK, so Shanna Wagner's glass creations aren't all that bizarre.
In her basement studio, she joins shards of clear, textured and colored glass with molten lead to form whimsical mirrors in sunburst shapes and three-dimensional star ornaments. Glass bits also masquerade as precious stones in her mosaic square jewelry.
Every piece contains hours of meticulous labor, care and creativity, but the work is pretty straightforward.
Nevertheless, the Lawrence artist totes her wares each year to the Bizarre Bazaar.
"I'm not sure I necessarily fit in, but that's the great thing about the Bizarre Bazaar: Everyone fits in," Wagner says. "It's so inclusive, which you definitely don't find in the art world very often. It's a breath of fresh air because the people are so welcoming, and it's so huge now."
- Saturday, November 29, 2003, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence
- All ages / Free
Indeed, more than 112 artists will join Wagner Saturday for the 14th annual Bizarre Bazaar at the Lawrence Arts Center. The grass-roots tradition, which started in 1989 as a kooky art display small enough to be at a local home, features original and unusual hand-crafted specialty items, which range from fiber art and mosaics to painted light bulbs and handblown glass beads. Past artists have decorated mannequin legs and painted dried orange skins to look like human faces.
Baked goods, a soup lunch and beverages will be available, and two stages of live entertainment will features local musicians and performers.
"Every year I get inspired because the Bizarre Bazaar is so open and so free and so creative," Wagner says.
Glass is glass
Wagner started working in stained glass out of necessity, really.
She wad one of the last students to go through Kansas University's glass program -- which included glassblowing -- before it closed in 1991.
"Blowing glass is fantastic. It's so immediate; it's so beautiful and luminous," she says. "If I had unlimited resources, I'd probably be blowing glass. But stained glass, you still have the gorgeous colors to work with and some of the same qualities, and it's so much easier to set up a studio in your basement or just as a hobbyist."
Wagner has turned the basement of her west Lawrence home into a functioning stained glass and mosaic studio. The tools of her trade occupy a large work table and nearby shelves: soldering iron, spools of copper foil and solder in various gauges, bottles of patina, a glass grinder, and trays and plastic bins full of multi-colored glass.
Wagner draws inspiration from many sources. She often flips through the shelves of art books next to her work table, scanning for architectural elements, textures and color schemes.
"Or I might start with a really cool handblown rondel that I get, and I'll just build around that," Wagner says.
'Funky, interesting things'
In addition to participating in the Bizarre Bazaar and other local art festivals, Wagner teaches stained glass at the Lawrence Arts Center and has sold work at quirky shops in the Lawrence and Kansas City areas. She also does commissioned pieces, which tend to be her favorite projects.
Last summer, Wagner was hired to create glass sidelights and a chandelier for an early 20th-century house on Massachusetts Street.
"He wanted some pieces that actually matched the style of the year of the house, but he wanted something a little funky, like a chandelier that was not Tiffany style," Wagner says. "That's like a dream job, where you get to try out a lot of things."
The medium is not without its challenges.
Glass is fragile and hard to repair, Wagner says.
"And if you're making a piece for an existing space, you have to be very precise. And I'm not necessarily a precise person," she says.
Keeping the glass clean and smudge-free is also difficult.
But the biggest drawback Wagner can identify is one that she imposes upon herself.
"I find that I'm always drawn to things that take a lot of time, like mosaics where you have to use lots of little pieces. It's just hard to get a lot done and be really prolific when you're working on really time-consuming things," she says. "I'm very envious of my friends who are painters and they do a mural in an afternoon. It seems so freeing to just go and do and you're done."
Of course there's also something freeing about being your own boss, working in a home studio and creating art using a material that continues to spark your imagination.
"I enjoy stained glass, and it has a hobbyist reputation," Wagner says, "but you can do some really funky, interesting things."