Stained Glass Studio an East Nashville Treasure
Stained glass windows express man’s fascination with color and light, a skill that craftsmen first mastered over 900 years ago, reaching its pinnacle in the Gothic cathedrals of Europe. What is it about the mystery of glass – sand transformed by fire – that intrigues us so?
Nestled in the trendy Lockeland Springs neighborhood of East Nashville, I discovered Sam Simm’s unique Stained Glass Studio, a mixture of intriguing gift shop, studio and school. She opened the studio five years ago and runs several classes on stained glass art every week, from beginner to advanced.
Sam is a talented artisan whose stained glass work has been displayed in galleries throughout the United States and adorns many churches, homes and businesses. She was born in Amityville, New York, and moved to Tennessee in the early Seventies, where she studied Commercial Art at Watkin’s Institute of Art and Design. She spent 17 years doing traveling art shows before opening her own studio in Nashville nearly 10 years ago.
“My husband, Daryl, signed us up,” she tells me. “This is such a great thing to do together! It doesn’t involve any electronics, no TV, no movies, no food. It’s a brilliant date thing to do as a couple!”
The Saturday classes go for six weeks, the Wednesday and Thursday evening classes go for seven, the Monday night Mosaic class for five. “We begin with the Copper Foil Method,” says owner and instructor Sam Simms. “Once the students get all the cutting, grinding, fitting and soldering techniques under their belt, then they can go on to the advanced or Lead Method classes. Everyone begins with the same first class project. After that they can look in our library and choose from 25 selections for their next project. Then we cut them loose!”
Shana has progressed to a large picture of a dairy cow grazing on a hillside. “This began with a photo,” she explained. “I enlarged it and traced it on the light table. Once you draw the pattern, you freehand the shapes and determine the colors, then cut the pieces of glass and grind the edges to fit.”
I watch as someone else tapes copper foil along the inner edge of a piece of glass and fits it into place. Simms moves from one student to the next, checking on progress. An advanced student is creating a room divider for her daughter in California, made up of numerous individual panels that will be hung together on chains.
The front of the studio is a kaleidoscope of colored glass creations sparkling in the sunlight. I remember as a child being invited into my big sister’s bedroom to hold her crystal prism up to the light as a special treat. Rainbows flashed from every angle while I gazed breathlessly, entranced. Sam’s Stained Glass Studio has that same effect and you’re caught with the desire to create your own works of beauty.
Simms holds out a piece of jewelry, a delicate layering of vibrant pieces of colored glass. “This is called fusing,” she explains. “We cut out pieces of glass, lay them on top of each other and fire them in the kiln.”
Color and light. I’m intrigued to discover that even before recorded history, man learned to make glass and color it by adding metallic salts and oxides. These minerals within the glass capture portions of color from the spectrum of white light. Gold produces stunning cranberry, cobalt makes blues; silver creates shades of yellow and gold, while copper makes greens and brick red.
I can’t resist, so sign up on the spot for a seven-week workshop beginning in May. Is this something you’ve wished for the opportunity to learn? Sam Simms’ workshops fill up fast, so call the studio to check on availability or look for a discount coupon on Living Social or Amazon, and join in the fun!