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Painting with glass


April 30, 2008

Jim Sanders creates sculptures using the ancient art of fused glass.

Jim Sanders didnít start out as a glass artist. In fact, "artist" is his third incarnation. Sanders began his working life as a forest ranger, working for the Wisconsin State Department of Natural Resources. Some years later, he and his wife ran their own interior design business in Waukesha. When his wife died in 1993, Sanders was at loose ends. "I traveled a lot and did volunteer work at my church," he says.

A class at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y., put Sanders on a path toward creating art from glass. "I decided on a whim to take the class. It renewed my interest in something I had thought about years before," he says.

The class Sanders took was in glass blowing, but that skill did not turn out to be his strong suit. "I decided that it was not really for me," he says. "With glass blowing, you really only have one chance to make it perfect." But he was interested in the ancient art of fused glass, a technique for forming glass that has been heated in a kiln or oven at high temperatures. Sanders uses modern technology to create colorful layered glass designs using these early methods.

"With fused glass, I create two or three-dimensional sculptures. Itís almost like painting with glass," Sanders explains. "My projects begin as flat glass sheets and pieces that I grind to the shape I want. Then the glass goes into a kiln where it is melted and cooled," he says. Pieces may return to the kiln several times to add depth, relief and shape. Lately, he has begun to incorporate stone into his work, too, using it as a base for bowls and other items.

Sanders, a Waukesha resident, creates most of his work on a commission basis, but also shows pieces in some regional art shows. Recently, he created a series of pieces for a client in Miami Beach, including wall hangings and glass panels for a door. "My next project is a commission from the Waukesha Business Improvement District to design and make a series of awards," he says.

Sandersí work may be seen at Riverís End Gallery in Waukesha, and soon in other area galleries. Contact him at


This article was featured in the April 2008 issue of