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10/27/2018
A winning lamp
Artist Terry Leberman sits for a portrait next to a stained glass lamp that he made at his workshop in downtown Ketchikan. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek


By DANELLE LANDIS
Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan artist Terry Leberman has a passion for all things glass.

His most recent creation, a Tiffany lamp, has been chosen for the 2019 Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists calendar, “Lamps for All Seasons.”

The large, colorful lamp radiated vibrance to every corner of his downtown Hisit Glass Studio on this past gloomy Tuesday afternoon.

Leberman said that the association has 800 members from all over the world, and that his lamp was chosen from among nearly 200 submissions for the calendar’s pages. Winners are voted on by all 800 members, rather than a panel of judges, he said.

“It’s a confirmation from your fellow workers, or glass people, or glazers,” he said, adding, “My biggest critic is a fellow glass person.”

“The object of the calendar is to promote the glass industry worldwide,” he said.

His winning lamp, featuring orange, red and yellow nasturtium flowers, took him about five months of intermittent work to complete. As with all modern Tiffany-style lamps, Leberman said it was created using original Tiffany “cartoons,” which are patterns printed on paper, created by turn-of-the century artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.

“We all do the same pattern,” Leberman said of artists who re-create Tiffany lamps. Each artist, however, puts his or her individuality “in the color of the glass.”

Leberman said his Tiffany lamps all have bronze stands formed from original Tiffany molds at the New York Tiffany studios.

“Everything is to the original era,” he explained.

The complex glass pieces for the shades are cut from pieces of art glass he ships up from various companies, each chosen with specific projects in mind. He said he travels to select the pieces he wants, which come in myriad colors, patterns and with labels such as “mottled,” for those with ring-like blotches; “streaky,” for those with swooping veins of color; and “rippled” for those with bumpy, textured surfaces.

He held up several large pieces of glass to the light.

“It comes alive,” he said.

Leberman explained that Tiffany’s specialty was using the patterns in the glass to make his images more striking.

“Each piece of glass runs in a certain direction to make the flower petal, he said. “Everything has to move. You’re painting a picture.”

He uses firm styrofoam molds on which to form his shades.

“You cut out each individual piece, foil it, then lead it together,” he explained. He said he builds the shades in three or four panels, supported by the mold.

What makes the Tiffany patterns more challenging than other stained glass forms, he said, is their intricacy.

Leberman said he started building Tiffany lamps in 2010. His love of all things stained glass started with a 2007 University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus class taught by Richard Erdrich.

“I did my first lamp in his class,” he said.

Although it was a challenging project for a beginner, he’d found his medium, and was determined to master the art. That lamp, glowing with orange flowers, still hangs in his studio.

“I fell in love with it,” he said of working with stained glass. “It didn’t take but one class.”

His studio is full of his glass creations. Not only lamps, but fused glass plates, glass jewelry and beads, blown and dichroic glass pieces, and stained glass hanging pieces depicting mermaids, whales, rock fish and octopus. He even has shelves crowded with glass vases and bottles he’s collected from various sources, simply because he enjoys glass objects.

One of his more-viewed dichroic pieces is the eye in the Terry Pyles salmon sculpture on Creek Street.

His studio also is crowded with many types of kilns, diamond grinders, cutters, and jigsaws and tall wooden vertical shelves holding many colors, patterns and types of glass.

As he rifled through the files bristling with glass plates, he held selected ones up to the lights, describing how he chooses them for his pieces.

“I like good color. I want color. The whole thing is about color,” he said.

His main kiln has its name scrawled on the front: “Ma.”

Leberman explained that’s because “Ma is in control.”

He said that kiln draws so much power that he only can run it at night. The building housing his studio is so old that when he runs Ma, other tenants experience power surges and computer problems.

One of his newest passions is painting pieces with powdered glass. He painted his octopus pieces with the powder, then fired them, creating complex patterns mimicking the creatures’ skin texture.

“You gotta know how to paint,” he said. He added that learning to paint has been a tough challenge.

Glass painting was originally taught to him by his late friend Nancy Alexander, Leberman said. She mentored him in the summers when she and her husband came to Ketchikan to fish.

“My painting is in remembrance of her,” he explained.

Leberman said his passion for glass work constantly is refreshed by always tackling not only new projects, but new methods and types of glass work. Another new type of work he is trying is “cold work,” producing pieces that appear prism-like.

From his studio, Leberman also creates commissioned projects, including slumped murals, stained glass panels, business signs and fused glass living memorials.

His first foray into glass art was creating glass beads, he said. Then, he began making blown glass pieces before taking Erdrich’s stained glass class and then moving on to the Tiffany lamps, then fused glass, before moving into the glass painting and cold work.

One project he says he particularly enjoys is making fused glass plates with local eighth-graders who are in the Ketchikan-Gero-Kanayama Japan exchange program. He helps them create the artworks to bring to their host families, as gifts.

He said he takes glass art classes as often as possible, when he travels, invigorating his work and keeping his inspiration alive.

“This is an evolving process, and you keep developing your skills as you go,” he said.