Sarah Hiles makes stained glassworks that are both quirky and complex
Visionary artists are almost unanimously inspired by the metaphysical; by mysticism, dreams, visions, and even hallucinations. Their art seeks to take the viewer away from reality in an attempt to transcend the physical world. It’s quite common to see visionary paintings, but one of Chattanooga’s artists has put a new twist on the genre. By accessing the medium of stained glass, Sarah Hiles has developed a style of visionary art that is refreshing and beautiful.
Stained glass, as a medium, has been around for at least a thousand years, but traditionally has been used for religious art. The glass is colored by adding metallic salts, cut into shapes, and then composited together with metal to form a translucent mosaic.
There is something interesting and delightful about an ancient medium being combined with modern subject matter. Hiles’s compositions glow with an otherworldly light, their organic forms radiating a very distinct and aesthetically pleasing vision.
We sat down with Sarah to find out what makes her tick, artistically speaking.
The Pulse: What is your earliest memory of making art?
Sarah Hiles: Making construction paper finger puppets.
TP: If you had to choose three other artists to play a game of Monopoly with, who would they be?
SH: Genghis Khan, Jake the Dog, and a spider.
TP: What is your favorite thing about working with stained glass?
TP: How did you learn the craft?
SH: I have been a professional metalsmith for 15 years and I taught myself to make stained glass. I learned to metalwork at the Appalachian Center for Craft and the Memphis College of Art where I earned a bachelors of fine art in metal in 2002.
TP: Can you tell us a little bit about the processes you use?
SH: I use the traditional Tiffany-style copper foil technique. First, I imagine up a design and draw a stencil. Then, I cut and shape the glass pieces to fit like a puzzle. The edges are carefully wrapped with thin copper foil strips and soldered with an iron. Last, it is cleaned, patina is applied, waxed and framed.
TP: What are you doing to challenge the media?
SH: With a diamond saw I am able to cut quirky complex shapes. The glass conforms to my drawn lines, presenting a modern style. I like to have a challenge piece in every design as a reminder to work carefully.
TP: What inspires your choice of subject matter?
SH: Plants and animals are my favorite. Oceans, space, history, mythology and Melatonin.
TP: Do you do custom work as well?
SH: Yes, but winter is not ideal because thermal shock cracks the glass. Stained glass is a skillful craft of heirloom quality art. Nothing equals it for enlivening a home with colorful beams throughout each day. I am currently booking for spring at northchatt.glass.
TP: Do you have any plans for the future? Upcoming shows, projects, etc.?
SH: I have a small stash of available work shipping directly from my studio. There are visions of large, complicated pieces in my future… something about Palenque and flying squirrels in jade green.
TP: Any observations about our local art scene?
SH: Chattanooga has a richly talented pool of resident artists.
TP: Any advice for other artists?
SH: Whatever it is that you make, make a lot of it.
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To see more of Hiles’s stained glass art, visit her website at northchatt.glass