Hearld and Journal, Dec. 10, 2001

Local couple use stained glass for handmade knick knacks, gifts

By Lynda Jensen

The mystery of stained glass is one of many different kinds of custom handmade crafts created by the Kirk and Joni Vetterkind family of Howard Lake.

The Vetterkinds, including their son Taylor, 11, use stained glass, beads and metal to create kitchen knick knacks, personalized house signs, jewelry, and Christmas ornaments, among other things.

The Vetterkinds also receive help from niece Cara, 14, who is the daughter of Julie Swenson in Champlin.

"It's fun because we all do it together," Joni said. The crafts are available through their business called Mosaic Variations.

Kirk set up the web site for the business, which is mosaicvariations.com.

Older than time

The art of mosaic and stained glass goes back to the the fifth and fourth century B.C., from builders and artists in ancient Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

These early artists used bits of glass, colored stone, and enamel in jewelry, furniture, columns, niches, and fountains.

More recently in history, Westminster Abbey and the houses of Parliament, which were built in the 19th century, showcase tesserae and stained glass.

More thought, effort

For Christmas gifts, hand made gifts are the best, Joni said, because they require more thought and effort than other gifts.

They can also be less expensive than other gifts, she said. "We didn't get into it for the money," she added with a laugh.

The stained glass pieces in particular exhibit personalities of their own, since each piece is cut by hand, with a distinctive look of its own, Joni Vetterkind said.

Vetterkind starts her creations by thinking of a color scheme and the object's basic design, she said.

From there, she uses a technique that has been in use for literally thousands of years, and cuts each piece by hand; setting it in grout.

The tool she uses scratches a straight line on the surface of the glass; which she breaks off using modest pressure.

She arranges the design ahead of time on her work bench, and then prepares the grout before the design is set into its permanent bed.

Each piece, depending on how intricate or ornate it is, may take her days to do, depending on how often she needs to give drying time between each session.

House signs require 10 different stages to do, with at least two periods of overnight drying, she said.

On the other hand, hanging pendants of beads and metal require only 15 minutes to complete.

She is experimenting with garden stepping stones as well.

Her favorite article to make are salt and pepper shakers, because they are the most fun, she said.

Her favorite part is attending the half dozen or so fairs each year.

"I love the people," she said. Working with hand made gifts gives her a very three dimensional relationship with each customer, she said.

For outdoor signs, she seals the grout to ensure no rain damage can occur, she said.

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