Medium: Stained Glass
Location: Edmundston, New Brunswick
Stéphanie Couturier is the owner and artisan behind La Vie en Verre, a stained glass studio located near Edmundston, New Brunswick. Her contemporary stained glassworks incorporate the unexpected, breaking tradition and soldering it back together in new forms, using abstract shapes, textures and colour. Just like Edith Piaf's song La vie en rose, which inspired her shop name, Couturier seeks to give her audience a colourful and happy lens to let the light in.
You're a self-taught artist, can you explain how you went about teaching yourself to create stained glass art?
I was really curious about the art and did intense research on the internet and read a few books. I took many notes and watched a ton of videos. Then I tried to combine all the theory knowledge I had accumulated and put it into steps that made sense to me. I ordered what materials I thought would be necessary and gave it a go! I found myself going over my notes many, many times. It was a slow but steady process. Each piece I made slowly improved overtime and I'm still learning!
What drew you to stained glass initially and what made you decide this was the medium for you?
All types of glassworks always fascinated me from a very young age. The vibrant colours, the textures and the reflections was just pure magic to me. It seemed that with stained glass the possibilities were endless. From sun catchers, to panels, to 3D pieces, any idea could be transposed into a glass piece. It wasn’t easy when I started and I didn’t immediately know if it was for me. It didn’t matter though, I loved it so much that I surrendered and let the medium teach me its ways. I guess this kind of dedication brought something good and we bonded. I love being surrounded with light and colours and knew I wanted more of this in my life. It brings hope into this world.
Were there any big learning curves or challenges at the start?
Absolutely! I knew nothing. Not even how to hold my glass cutter and what pressure to apply to it! I started cutting glass in a small wardrobe where my workspace was and it wasn’t an immediate success. It was poorly lit and not very safe. Glass doesn’t cut the same way paper does. You need to guide it correctly in order for it to cut the way you want it. It takes practice. I was also drawn to cut curvy shapes which can be more challenging with glass. It's been a beautiful journey between acceptance and perseverance and bloody thumbs.
Can you describe your process of bringing an idea to life? And how you balance different elements such as colour and texture within your pieces. Does the way the light looks at different times of year or day influence your design decisions in any way?
All the time! I notice different moods in my creations depending on the time of year. Sometimes it's to match the environment, sometimes it's to completely go in contrast with nature. I'm also lucky to have morning to evening sunlight in my studio, so I can let the reflection inspire my choices of glass depending on the time of day.
For my process, I work in two different ways. If I have an idea of something I want to communicate, I will transpose it into a design and then choose the best glass colours, level of transparency and try different textures. Some textures are more bold and speak louder in my opinion while some are very simple and have a more delicate tone. The other way is to really be inspired by the glass itself and see what it wants to tell me. I have a lot of fun designs that came to be that way. Either way, I look at what it will look like against daylight and seek harmony between the pieces.
You've described your work as unconventional. What characteristics make your work unconventional and how does your approach or techniques differ from more traditional stained glass?
Usually when we think of stained glass, we think of Tiffany lamps and the likes. Although I do use the Tiffany techniques (copper foiled pieces) when I make soldered pieces, my final pieces are pretty different in terms of designs. Being self-taught, I didn’t do many pieces from existing patterns. I always created them myself and that led me to try different compositions of the glass which ended up to be more abstract and minimalist. Some of my piece combine solder and raw edges, which I'd never seen before. These are my favorite piece. I also pushed this idea and created completely solder less pieces that are more like mobiles. Overtime, I developed different techniques to grind the edges of the glass so that they wouldn’t be sharp or have chips. And now I mix them all!
How have you grown as an artist so far and how do you see your practice continuing to unfold?
Stained glass has taught me to find a sweet balance between good work, perfectionism and self doubt. It gave me courage to pursue new techniques and not be afraid to try other mediums as well. It definitely gave me more self confidence as an artist. It’s still a work in progress but I really hope it brings me to try even bolder projects and incorporate new mediums into glass pieces.
Pay it forward -- tell us about something or someone our readers should know about.
There’s a new wave of tufting and punch needles that is really interesting to witness. I’d love to know more about Shauna Jean Mcginnis (she/they) of @going__steady!