GTPulse: Art at Any Age: Donna Stein Harris Finds Passion and Solace by Fusing Glass
Donna Stein Harris didn’t plan to buy a kiln.
She didn’t even plan to consider opening a business at her age.
To her, it was all a blessing of happenstance.
“It was serendipity,” Donna tells me over the phone as we discuss the incredible functional and decorative art she’s been creating for the past three years. “I’ve always been an artist of some sort. But, about three years ago, an acquaintance of mine said she’d been getting into fused glass, so she showed me, and let me make a piece in her studio and I said, ‘Oh my God ,I love this.’ So, I got my own kiln.”
The result of that serendipitous moment is a home filled with beautiful fused glass designs that range from bowls to menorahs. What began as a hobby, fueled by a desire to create and a whole lot of YouTube videos, is now blossoming into a potential business, “I don’t have a website, I’m not on Etsy. But, I think I do need a marketing plan of some sort because I’m running out of room.” Although a name is not set in stone just yet, Donna says she has been calling it “Donna’s Fused Glass Designs.”
Donna’s designs started small. She started fusing—a multi-step process of layering different textures and colors of glass—mostly to make jewelry and small gifts for friends and family. As she became more comfortable with the process, her designs got bolder. At the request of her daughter, Donna began making menorahs and kinaras. She began moving from functional pieces—like bowls—to purely artistic pieces one might display on a wall. Her next goal is to connect the two by creating function pieces in an abstract way.
Her boldness heightened as she continued to grow as an artist. She credits her teacher for inspiring that growth, “About a year ago, I thought I had gone as far as I could with YouTube and I found this wonderful teacher in Kingsley with her own studio and she’s been so wonderful and generous with her time and talent.”
Although her designs have become more complex, her bright colors and patterns have remained. “My children have accused me of being pathologically optimistic,” she muses, “so I don’t know what that means, but it makes me laugh. In that vein, I think my art reflects my optimism.
Creating her designs during the pandemic didn’t tarnish her penchant for positivity, “Even in these dark times, even when we’re isolated, I’m grateful, I have my health and my family, and even when we’re suffering, we’re okay.”
Donna’s serendipitous foray into the world of fused glass may have happened by chance, but throughout her life, she received inspiration from a family member. She sent me a picture of her studio. She notes an oil painting hanging above her display case, a distant landscape carefully carved into the canvas, and she tells me it was not placed there by accident, “It was painted by my favorite Aunt Mollye who took up painting in her late 70s. She was always an inspiration and never let her age stop her from doing anything.”
That sounds like a familiar sentiment.
Donna will turn 78 in March. Like her Aunt Mollye, she isn’t about to let her age stop her from finding a new passion.
“I didn’t expect it, I wasn’t looking for it. You’re never too old. I think that this could happen to anybody and any age.”