Tucked away on the mezzanine floor of the historic Freeland Keystone building in Anacortes, you’ll discover Joanie Schwartz Glass. Both a working studio and retail shop, the warm, vibrant atmosphere of the little nook tugs you in the door to find out what’s going on inside.
Joanie developed a creative streak at a young age. As the child of a depression era mom, she first learned to experiment with found items, aka trash! One of her earliest memories is spending time with her family at a rustic, old-time Napa Valley “resort” – before “glamping” became a thing – in Northern California. She spent every moment she could with the artist in residence, Mrs. Bee, making paper chains, plaster of Paris creations, and keychains.
Later in life, Joanie worked with paint, paper, and beads until she discovered glass mosaics.Then, as a mosaic artist, she decided to learn to fuse glass to create pieces she could incorporate in her mosaic work. She hasn’t looked back since. With encouragement from friends and her husband, she established Joanie Schwartz Glass at the corner of Commercial Avenue and 7th Street in Anacortes in 2019.
A Love for Teaching
Joanie enjoys showing Anacortes visitors and locals what she’s working on and talking about her latest art for sale. You might find a handmade fused glass treasure for your own home, a unique gift for a friend or a holiday memento.
When you take in the variety of pieces she creates and the brilliant colors she uses, you could think that Joanie’s first love is her own artwork. The items in her retail space have obviously been crafted with an eye for detail and a full heart. But Joanie’s favorite activity is teaching. “My passion is to help people create their own vision,” she says.
Fused Glass Classes in Anacortes
This winter, sisters Debbie Clow and Jill Brado, longtime residents of Anacortes, are taking a four-week series of classes at the studio. The first Saturday afternoon was set aside to begin work on a “coral bowl,” a piece that takes form in three steps: creation of the bowl’s branched framework, powdering the glass to shade it, then slumping the piece in the kiln to shape the bowl. In between the steps, Debbie and Jill had time to make a bonus glass nightlight. “These two are fast!” Joanie laughs.
For their second Saturday class, the sisters are creating a strip art piece. The bold reds, yellows, and blacks Jill uses coordinate with the quilt she made for her bedroom. She plans to frame and hang the piece nearby. Debbie is creating a skyline of blues, golds, and grays, with her glass pieces positioned both flat, as usual, and on their narrow sides. “I told her I had never tried that approach,” Joanie says. “We will all be excited to see what it looks like when we open the kiln.”
Week three of the class will involve making “fossil vitra” – a technique that allows you to incorporate natural materials like branches and leaves into a glass piece. During the final week of the class, Debbie and Jill will make a glass windchime.
If you’re one of the many who stop by the retail shop and then feel compelled to try a project of your own, don’t be surprised. Joanie feels that her work expresses how she sees the world – full of light, beauty, hope, and joy – and she invites people to share the creative process with her. You can count on turning out a vibrant piece that will make you smile, even if you have never worked with glass before.
Joanie says the impact of the pandemic has been mainly positive for her business. She has reduced the size of her classes for everyone’s safety, and now she is able to give more of her time to each person she works with. Joanie has also taken the opportunity to reorganize her studio and to finally finish the Joanie Schwartz Glass website, where you can learn more about her work and shop safely distanced. Find her online, upstairs at 619 Commercial Avenue in Anacortes, or give her a call at 925.989.7798.