Light slips in through the stained glass suncatcher in the window and brightens the room with rainbow colors. The studio is warmed by the wood stove and the ceramic kiln at work. No winter’s chill is going to keep this artist from creating glass masterpieces.
The beginning of Linda Sutterer’s craftsmanship was decades ago, inspired by her family’s creativity. “My grandfather was an oil painter, and my mom was an artist that dabbled with glasswork as a hobby,” she says. “When I moved from New Orleans to St. Louis over 40 years ago, I started working at a local stained glass shop. I learned so much from them by helping design new windows and repairing old ones, many of them ornate Victorian-style.”
Linda also worked with a local glass blower until she moved to nearby Marthasville and decided to open up her own home studio, called Glass Compositions.
“At first, we worked out of an upstairs bedroom. Back then, I’d have customers go through the house and up the stairs to pick out glass,” she says. Linda and her husband hosted an open house twice a year, where 70 people would come to shop and socialize.
From there, they built an addition to the house for Glass Compositions. For 20 years now, she has been offering custom residential and repair services.
“The heyday for glass was the ’70s through most of the ’80s,” Linda recalls. “Before then, stained glass was mostly built for big church windows only. Then a grinder was developed and other tools that the average person at home could use. Suddenly, the glasswork became smaller and more intricate.” The use of kilns further broadened the appeal and availability.
Linda began experimenting with fusing, which is the process of joining pieces of glass together by melting them at a high temperature. She enjoys painting glass and loves working with various colors, shapes and sizes. She designs a variety of items, from large hanging window panels to earrings to stepping stones — and her talents with glass don’t end there. “People bring in windows or doors that are completely in shambles for me to fix and piece back together into a fresh design,” she says.
Linda loves teaching the craft to others. “For 18 years, every Tuesday morning and two nights a week, we did classes,” she says. “Most of the ladies were nurses, school teachers and retirees. I’d let them work on whatever they wanted during class. Someone would be over here fusing while another would be pouring cement for a steppingstone. It sounds chaotic, but it worked really well.” One student attended Linda’s classes for more than 14 years.
Stunning glasswork lines the shelves in her study, alongside tables covered in patterns and tools she has used since she was in her 20s. A grinder rests next to soldering supplies. In the corner, there are sheets of colored glass next to boxes of decorations, plates and dishes.
There’s even broken pieces of saucers and glass she can’t wait to make beautiful again. “I love old stuff and I enjoy collecting all kinds of unique and unusual items to incorporate into future pieces,” she says. “I have a whole area of ‘take and bake’ stuff, where customers can pick out small pieces to decorate and have them fused together.”
Once she glues the delicate pieces together, Linda stacks them on trays inside the kiln — similar to layering food in a dehydrator. “As it heats up, everything expands and contracts at the same rate and the individual pieces bond together,” she explains. “It takes around four hours to cook and another four hours for the kiln to cool down.”
Linda uses two soldering techniques, one with lead and one with copper foil. “When you’re trying to teach yourself, the soldering is probably the hardest part to get right,” she says. “The copper foil method is the one to start with and once you get it, you get it.” She has shared how-to videos on Pinterest and Facebook.
“After 2020 hit, I pivoted away from teaching classes to selling supplies on Etsy,” Linda says. She also offers many items for sale in her shop and on her website, including her glass creations, as well as stained glass kits, which include nine pieces of glass and her go-to instructional book she used for years in class.
She continues to do a lot of commissions, usually residential. She recently designed and installed 18 windows for the conference room of a local doctor’s building. “I’ll often sketch out a few ideas for the design and have the customer pick one,” she says.
Linda’s drawings reveal an artist’s eye and proof of articulate planning. She keeps many of the sketches and photographs from her projects and classes. It’s a good thing she does. “One time we made front door windows for a customer and 15 years later, they had a fire and the fireman had to break through their window,” Linda says. “But we still had the pattern, and we were able to redo it.”
Working with stained glass is an art she is proud to carry on and she’s enthusiastic about sharing the techniques with others. “Every project is very different; that’s why I’m not bored with it yet. There’s just so many ways to use the glass.”
You can call Linda Sutterer with Glass Compositions at 314-609-0903. Browse her Etsy store at www.lindasutterer.etsy.com or visit www.glasscompositions.com.
Kaiser is a freelance writer from Hartville.