Water views inspire Bayou Vista stained-glass artist
Chris Roper still gets excited when she sees a piece of stained glass, even though she has created hundreds of works of art in that genre for the past 20 years.
“I like the fragility of it — the idea that the vibrant colors, the various textures and the art form itself creates different feelings within each artist,” said Roper as she worked in a small studio within her Bayou Vista garage. “Glass has a mind of its own and will only do what glass wants to do. You must be very respectful of it and have lots of Band-Aids nearby.”
Roper’s pieces are tastefully displayed throughout her three-story waterfront home with each floor featuring a mix of architectural and Tiffany-stained glass techniques. Tiffany techniques refer to the many and varied types of glass developed and produced from 1878 to 1933 at the Tiffany Studios in New York by Louis Comfort Tiffany and a team of other designers.
Tiffany was obsessed with the incredible stained-glass windows he saw in churches and cathedrals and developed a line of lamps — and later, jewelry — using the old technique of adhering copper foil to glass and soldering the glass together into gorgeous designs, according to art historians.
Four of Roper’s pieces in the entryway include an abstract made with scrap glass, butterfly with mirrored wingtips, vase and a modern fleur-de-lis on a background of streamers and confetti glass.
The second-floor living room area showcases a fireplace screen Roper designed.
“I actually designed that piece before my husband, Herb, and I built this house,” she said. “We even built the fireplace to fit the screen, and I used a coloring book drawing to represent the heron wading in the water.”
The fireplace screen is the focal point, but two tablescapes, both created to reflect underwater scenes, also stand out. One depicts bubbles floating to the top.
“Those bubbles are made from round pieces of glass called ‘nuggets’ in the glass world,” Roper said.
After the house was built, Roper designed striking kitchen cabinet door inserts made of clear, wavy glass and cobalt blue diamond patterns.
“I told the builder to make the door frames and I would install the inserts,” she said.
Around the corner, in the dining room, a cathedral with varying types of textured glass sits atop the dining table catching glimmers of sunlight.
“That was a real challenge,” Roper said. “It’s three-dimensional, so I had to make sure that every piece was perfectly straight for the four sides to fit on the mirrored bottom.”
A stationary transom window between the hall and the powder room is exquisite and also installed after the house was built.
“Again, I had the contractor leave the space open, knowing I’d make something to put there,” Roper said.
The third floor leads to the master bedroom and bath where two more pieces complement the outdoor view of marshes and birdlife.
One hangs in the bedroom window, depicting a palm tree, his and hers Adirondack chairs and a setting sun over blue, wave-capped waters.
The other piece in the bathroom window is made of beveled glass with pale blue and silver tones that resemble stars on the water at nighttime, Roper said.
The very first piece Roper made — a simple iris bloom atop a tall, thin leaf — hangs near the fireplace on the second level. To the right of the fireplace is a stained-glass clock, made especially for her husband.
“Herb wanted to be able to see what time it was while sitting in his chair,” she said. “I originally made it from a pattern, but it was taller and didn’t fit in that space, so I adjusted the pattern and remade it.”
There are other eye-catching pieces on display in various windows, most all reflections of sea life. Presently, Roper is designing something completely different — a desert scene with colors of rust and gold.
“The textures are different with this one,” she said. “It’s going to be a hanging circle using zinc on the outside instead of lead or copper foil, which are the two elements most commonly used.”
Her largest and most difficult piece that took the most time is a 5-foot-long, eyebrow-shaped window Roper installed in her niece’s Connecticut home. The scene depicts the view of the Connecticut River that flows in front of her niece’s home.
Roper also donates her glass pieces to local nonprofit fundraiser events, such as Artist Boat and Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council.
Although working in glass is her passion, Roper also is a published author and editor. She and Herb have enjoyed traveling to Europe over the years to visit glass shops and admire the architectural elements of stained glass. But she is happiest when working in her studio that’s filled to the brim with materials needed for her art, she said.
“With a view of marshlands on the front of our home and a canal on the back, I am able to stand here and see 180 degrees of water,” she said. “That is why you see so many water pieces. It’s a peaceful hobby — my alone time and my creative time when I can basically go down to my studio and make whatever I want.”