Having her own artwork on display at last year’s Cranberry Fair taught Brenda Stehelin an important lesson.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” says the long-time owner of Yukon Gallery, who is accustomed to prodding artists to have confidence in their work and “just get out there”.
“I didn’t really get what it meant to actually put your personality and your work out there for everyone to judge,” she admits.
“Last year was the first time I did it myself and I was like, ‘Oh, gee. Maybe I should be a little kinder when I’m being supportive to these guys.'”
Besides her businesss and family obligations, Stehelin has to squeeze in a four-day trip to Ottawa in the final days before this Sunday’s fair. To meet her target of 30-35 pieces for display, her soldering iron is working overtime.
Stehelin works with stained glass, but that’s just one of many elements she uses.
Her workspace is cluttered with watch parts, keys, fossils, antique stamps, tiny antler carvings, earrings, pearls, amethysts, jade.
There’s a medal of the Virgin Mary from an aunt who was a nun, a brass button from her grandfather’s World War I army tunic – even a handful of old keys her mother found on a recent visit to a Turkish bazaar.
Many of these objects will find their way into the elaborate, three-dimensional collages that are Stehelin’s specialty.
“I don’t really consider myself a stained-glass artist, because the glass is actually just a frame for all the little bits and pieces that I have put into them.”
Stehelin says she dabbled in painting, sewing, beadwork and other forms of expression before discovering stained glass about 15 years ago.
“I took a course with Lise Merchant and I just loved it. I seemed to take to it fairly naturally and I just went from there.”
Her explanation for the enduring appeal of stained glass is simple: “Because it’s beautiful. Coloured glass makes you happy. A little spot of it anywhere is a delightful thing.”
Stehelin quickly realized she didn’t want to turn out stained-glass polar bears and angels. Instead, she uses “found” objects to capture a sense of history.
“A lot of those are Yukon history – antique keys from the Gold Rush, stamps that came from cabins in Livingston and Silver City, Atlin glass from the shipyards.”
Her voices rises with enthusiasm as she describes a recent acquisition via e-Bay, a nicotine-stained assortment of gears, springs and porcelain faces from old pocket watches.
“I was so excited when it came in. I was like, ‘Whoa, look at this. I just won the lottery.'”
It’s time for Stehelin to assemble another collage, to apply copper foil to the edges of non-metallic items that need it and warm up the soldering iron.
Only a few days remain before the “nerve-wracking” experience of putting her work on display again.
The Cranberry Fair takes place Sunday, November 28 at the Westmark Whitehorse, starting at 11:00 am. Doors open at 10:15 for persons with mobility difficulties.