Sorting through vibrant panes of colored glass, Anne Ryan Miller sees potential cumulus clouds, lily pads, hummingbirds, and more. “I go to the factory and hand-select sheets that look like something to me,” says the Nashville-based artist. “It always resembles a storm or a sunset or a sunrise. I look for something that evokes a feeling in me.”
Owner of Anne Ryan Miller Glass Studio, Miller is largely self-taught and has worked in the medium for more than 40 years. In the mid-1970s, a stained-glass artist invited Miller to help with several large projects that needed to be finished, cleaned, and delivered. “That’s how it all started,” she says. Soon, Miller was creating her own pieces and pioneered her signature copper-overlay technique along the way.
“I was working on a design that was a branch of dogwood flowers swooping down in front of a waterfall, and I wanted to make it very delicate,” she says. “I wanted to work in these little leaves, buds, and branches.” Experimenting with copper foil tape, Miller achieved the multidimensional look that now characterizes her work.
Miller’s stained-glass windows range in price from $600 to $1,400, and her lamps cost between $895 and $1,400. A single lamp can take her 20 hours to finish. To create one of her copper-overlay pieces, Miller begins with a section of opalescent glass and a large roll of adhesive-backed copper foil. Using a glass-cutter, she creates what she calls a “glass canvas.” Next, she smooths a sheet of copper foil over the glass and traces a drawing onto the copper. Miller then cuts through the metal with a utility knife, removing the negative space to reveal her design.
Depending on the desired effect, Miller adheres copper elements to the front or the back of the colored glass. “When I put metal on the front and cut it out, it looks like a silhouette,” she says. “When I put it on the back, the light diffuses around the metal to create a misty, distant effect. It allows me to create enormous detail and depth.”