Copper in the Arts

November 2010

Brian Western: Giving New Life To Bottles Through Stained Glass

By Ashley Morris

Copper and glass bee. German Antique Honey Bee

Photograph courtesy of Brian Western

Who knew drinking a bottle of beer could actually become a work of art? Sketch artist Brian Western discovered the drink's duality by chance after he learned how to cut glass from his older brother about 30 years ago.

"He had showed me techniques in cutting glass out of his stained glass shop in Winnipeg," recalls Western. "Then I just developed things, and I was always fascinated with the idea of getting the curve of glass to make leaves. When I was drinking an exotic ale one day, I thought, 'Why not use this curve?'"

And so the uniquely artistic medium for Western Art Glass was born. Western's hand-crafted bearings (earrings in the jewelry world), pendants, twirling leaves and mobiles are sliced from the bottoms and sloping sides of globally produced beer bottles, like Peroni and various Belgian beer bottles - sometimes with textured lines and number imprints included - as well as reclaimed glass.

Each leaf, or honey bee wing or fish fin - whatever whimsical image Western envisions - is then copper-foiled, soldered together and attached to hollow copper rods of varying diameters. A pretty picture, hanging in the sunlight of your picture window.

"One of my gingko leaf mobiles simulate the branches and I even put copper nubsat end to make it even more realistic," says Western. "I like combining copper with solder and I like the idea of copper as it ages and the metals begin to oxidize. "With drawing, which is what I've always done, the lines were always minimal. The nice thing about glass is that it introduces a different dimension; it's not just flat anymore."

Copper and glass squirrel. Art Glass Squirrel

Photograph courtesy of Brian Western

Most of the Minneapolis artist's natural ability was self-taught, as well as genetically inherited from his mother, who was a painter. As he comically describes himself on etsy.com, "I'm the slightly rumpled fellow, wandering through the cosmos with a puzzled, quizzical, out-of-focus look on my face -noticing interesting shapes and contours, thinking about glass and light, lines diverging and converging, the meaning of life."

Western Art Glass is a part-time profession to his full-time gig working in a paper warehouse. When he gets down to the business of cobbling a new Western Art Glass design, "There's always a lot of drinking of beer - and then there's accordion music in the background," he says.

Those in the Minneapolis area can stop by The Grand Hand Art Gallery in St. Paul to purchase Western Art Glass designs. All others can view and purchase Western's work on Etsy.

Resources:

Western Art Glass, Brian Western, Minneapolis, MN

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