Growing up in a contemporary house where all the window glass was clear, Anne Ryan Miller didn’t intend to become a stained-glass artist; she trained to be a high-school teacher. Then, while visiting a friend in Bloomington one summer, she offered to help with a project making glass for a restaurant. Miller fell in love with the medium, its rainbow of colors and myriad textures. Not long after, she and that friend opened a studio in a garage. Today she works with several co-op galleries.
Miller’s custom, copper overlay technique gives her work especial depth and definition. Projects include residential, commercial, and spiritual commissions; Anne’s personal interest is nature. “I remember being transfixed as a child by the colors and patterns of trees at twilight,” she says. She has a unique eye for capturing the sensuality of silhouettes, such as trees in a landscape.
Lamps are a specialty, particularly four-panel shades that showcase the beauty of her flat Arts & Crafts designs, a signature of the artist. She begins with the pattern: a swallow swooping amidst wildflowers, or irises silhouetted against a sunset. To support the metal overlay, she uses dense, heat-stable glass like that from Kokomo Opalescent Glass (a manufacturer favored by Tiffany). She’s careful to select for streaks and patterns in the glass to enhance her design.
She starts by laying out a sheet of copper foil with an adhesive backing. She then traces her drawing onto the metal and cuts it out with an X-acto knife. The copper is burnished with a blunt tool, then soldered to the glass, with care taken that the heat doesn’t crack the glass. Miller uses different sized soldering tips to “paint” the metal with varying depths and strokes. After soldering, the panel is thoroughly cleaned with a flux remover and glass cleaner and a Q-tip. The panel is finished with a combination of copper and black patinas for color and highlight. The finished panels are then soldered together.
“The lamp’s base, of course, is critical,” Anne Ryan Miller says, “so I’m now making my own in collaboration with furniture makers.” She often bronzes the wooden bases.