I’ve met very few people who enjoy what they do as much as Joan (Joanie) Johnson, owner of Renton Art and Glass Studio. The business is an artist collective, where artists use the facility and equipment to create and produce artistic glass pieces for sale in various venues, galleries and events.
Joan went to the College of Dupage in Illinois, majoring in art and interior design, but spent years in the mortgage business. She said many artists don’t have business skills to help them, and she finds that business experience useful.
Joan is a glass artist herself. The studio moved into the current location near IKEA a few years ago, but the original Uptown Glass was in downtown Renton for more than 30 years. It was in those early days that Joan walked in there thinking she was signing up for a bead making class. It was her first encounter with making art out of glass and she was immediately hooked. Eventually, the owner told her how good she was. She rented space and started producing her own works of art and became a certified instructor.
At the present location, there are four full-time artists who are renting space. Classes are offered for anyone interested in learning this field of art. The Taste of Glass class is perfect for someone to test it out and see if it’s something they want to continue. This class is intended for students with no glass experience. The students make two paperweights using various processes and color techniques.
She said she has one student who is 5 years old and does a great job. Students learn the use of glass blowing tools, how to gather flowing glass from the furnace, and how to shape glass. The day I visited, there were glass pumpkins everywhere in every color imaginable, all ready for Halloween. They are also taught the importance of teamwork and shop safety. After all, the electric oven (or kiln) is over 2100 degrees! During the cooling process, the glass art must cool slowly to avoid exploding.
Joan is always coming up with new ideas and she said, “We have various types of events and sales that we offer to charities, schools and communities.”
The studio often partners with nonprofit organizations such as Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and Bellevue’s Many Lights Foundation for fundraising events.
One of her ideas became the glass pumpkin patch where 50 percent of the proceeds go to group events to support their school. Corporate Team Building sessions allow groups to blow their own glass business card holders, pen holders, paperweights etc.
At a Girls Night Out class, students learn how to cut and assemble glass into earrings, pendants, sunflowers and sun catchers. They also make glass hearts or other objects that hold memorial ashes of pets and people.
“The ashes are beautiful and sparkle inside of the glass,” Joan said.
One of the artists was working on a glass heart while I was there. He was using a glass pipe to gather bits of colored glass from the oven to form the heart. Joan said the artists are a fun group.
“It’s a great environment and everyone shares and helps each other. I choose easy-going people to work here who enjoy the art and don’t get too intense,” she said.
She mentioned an artist in another studio who got mad and threw his hot glass pipe! “If you’re going to be in the arts, it’s got to be fun — or else, why do it?”
The gallery is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Jaris English can be reached at email@example.com.