Custer art glass studio is one of a kind

Published on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 by Carissa Wright

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Artist Jenny Reich started working with stained glass decades ago. Then, some six or seven years back, she switched to a “warm” medium – fused glass. She’s never looked back, and in fact, she’s still looking forward.

“You won’t see a lot of what we do,” Reich says. “We’re kind of blazing a few paths.”

Reich and partner Greg Keith opened their studio and gallery, Whimsy, in downtown Custer on September 1. The business, located at 2911 Main Street, will celebrate its formal grand opening from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 3, though the gallery is already open to the public. Reich is also planning a holiday open house for the following weekend, featuring lots of ornaments and a number of holiday-themed pieces.

Whimsy is housed in a former bank building that had stood vacant for 40 years, and its high ceilings and brick walls provide a perfect canvas for the iconic, sculptural art Reich and Keith create.

“What we’ve done is combine the intricacies of stained glass and brought them into fused glass,” Keith says. Keith designs about 80 percent of the artwork, and Reich’s astonishing skill with cutting glass brings the ideas to fruition.

“A lot of fusers don’t have the cutting skill Jenny has,” Keith says. Reich deflects the praise, but her talent is evident in the complexity of the pieces on display.

The sign hanging above the shop’s door is a perfect example. The shop’s name is cut from a single piece of glass – twice, once for each side of the sign. Reich says it took “about a day” to cut the glass, including spiraling embellishments and cursive script. She only had one piece break.

“We just take it a little further,” Reich says.

One piece, “Georgia on my Mind,” features a double layer of fused “petals” and a tactile center that amps up the contrast between it and the sleek exterior.

Reich also enjoys “painting” with ground glass, a technique she can employ between pieces of clear glass to layer images and create depth.

When working with stained glass, Reich explains, there are a lot of “can’ts.” Stained glass isn’t very durable, and it’s certainly not airtight. Certain curved shapes just aren’t possible with stained glass, and the seams and copper tape break up an artist’s design. These rules just don’t apply with Reich’s style of fused glass.

“As far as I’m concerned now,” Reich says, “there are no limitations.”