Self-taught artist and entrepreneur Meggy Wilm recently opened a new stained glass shop and studio on Pearl Street called Colorado Glass Works. In addition to Wilm’s stunning designs, the store, which is located at 1500 Pearl St. Ste. D, will offer classes and open studio sessions.
We chatted with 29-year-old Wilm to learn more about her backstory, stained glass as an art form and what to expect at her new brick-and-mortar location.
What’s your background and how did you get into stained glass in the first place?
I grew up in Littleton and I had some really supportive parents who saw the value in getting their kids involved in hobbies. I was a kid who had a lot of energy and ADHD, so they put me into an art class — and then another and another and another. I tried so many different mediums as a kid and jump around, but never had anything that pulled me in one direction. As I grew up, I still continued to do art. I went to CU Boulder and, after college, I was in this weird limbo phase and just wanted to seek out and try new hobbies. Something my parents had always taught me is that, when you are rebuilding and restricting your life, you should invest in yourself.
I thought you needed industrial machinery to be able to learn stained glass, but after Google searching, I found out I could take a class and learn at a local workshop. I took that community class and figured out all the tools I needed. I did it one time and I haven’t set it down in five years. It was this really beautiful mix of the same creative flexibility that a lot of the other art that I did had, but then there was also this really rigid, technical aspect where you’re fitting things into a frame, mathematics are important when you construct things for structural stability. It was this fun, rigid but very free medium.
How did the hobby grow and evolve into a business?
I started making little gifts. I wanted any excuse to create. I was making gifts for friends and then I thought I might be able to make gifts for strangers, and the income I make from those gifts might fund the hobby. I ventured out online and I started selling on Instagram; I made an Instagram page. I grew by word of mouth. A lot of it was just good customer service and learning, I really placed a lot of importance on the interactions I had with people. Glass is very personal. I was making pieces to honor people or pets who had passed, or sentimental memories. I was making scenes that were precious to their family.
I also had a day job — I still do — in marketing consulting and a lot of what we did was social media. And at the time, I didn’t know anything about social media, I don’t use it on a personal level. But I thought it might be kind of cool to learn about how to work with social media but to do it with my glass and watch myself grow as I post projects. I also thought I could figure out how to grow organically on social media. I had a goal to reach a certain amount of followers and I reached it after two years, then there was exponential growth after that. More people paid me to make stuff, I reached more people, my friends and customers shared me, and pretty quickly my following doubled and tripled. It continues to grow like a weed in a good way.
How has stained glass changed over time?
For a very long time, stained glass was something you had in your local church, it was something your grandmother had in her entry doorway — the kind of old, tacky tulip windows with one color and clear glass all around. What’s been interesting as social media has grown is that it’s opened up this opportunity for a reinterpretation of this really traditional practice. And people no longer want to paint Jesus — there’s nothing wrong with painting Jesus — but we figured out that we don’t have to make these traditional classic patterns, we can hand-draw our own patterns and use crazy colors, use acrylic glass that’s made in a vacuum and sprayed with crystals and metal oxides on it. The glass that’s available nowadays, it almost begs to be reimagined in a way. A lot of us are just figuring out we can really bend this traditional medium into something that’s a lot more modern and we can create some crazy things with it.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m just really inspired by color. I love color. I love rainbow things. Nature is always a really fun topic to study. But again, going back to having ADHD, I get to go in so many different directions with topics and themes. The material you play with is inspiring. Sometimes I see a sheet of glass and I have an idea. Sometimes I come up with an idea and then go pick the glass. It’s not one single thing that’s inspiring. It’s the color, the materials, the subject matter. Especially if I’m doing a custom order, my clients are picking what I’m making and it’s up to me to artistically interpret that.
What are the biggest misconceptions about making stained glass?
When people think of stained glass, they think you probably need a machine shop and some heavy-duty machinery to do it. But it’s something you could do at a table in your garage. Now, there’s a lot of expense that goes into it, but anyone can do it. The steps aren’t hard, there are just a lot of them. It’s easier than people might think.
Why did you decide to open a brick-and-mortar location?
I had grown so much, I was operating out of my house in a bedroom and I ran out of workspace. I had like three tables in my house and I ran out of space. My dream is to make bigger pieces and the work benches I had at home were not large enough for me to make two-by-two-foot windows, for example.
The other half was the glass industry was dying in Denver. When I started out, I bought all my tools from a shop that was closing down. There’s one big wholesale warehouse in Denver that sells stained glass and that’s basically it for the Denver metro area. There’s no stained glass shop in the city of Boulder. I love this art so much and, especially during COVID, so many people discovered it and are just hungry to learn. It’s changed my life and I wanted to be able to offer that and allow that to reach other people. There need to be more young people who own stained glass shops and carry on this tradition and teach people how to do this. I want it to continue for years to come.