Visual Arts

Sally Van Der Kamp transforms scraps of glass into fine art

You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

When you buy glasswork from artist Sally Van Der Kamp, who works mostly with stained glass and mosaics, you're getting much more than an affordable and unique conversation piece: You're getting a tiny bit of history that'll brighten your home and maybe even warm your heart.

See also: Cara Harjes paints children's art that parents adore

One of the most interesting components of her art is Depression glass. "Oh, you're probably not old enough to know about that," the soft-spoken Van Der Kamp tells me.

"Depression glass was popular back in the '30s," she explains, offering a brief lesson on the inexpensive and colorful glass that folks got when they bought "food, jellies, and other things" during the Depression era. "All of the grandmothers collected or had it because it was something pretty or cheerful they could afford in that day," says Van Der Kamp.

Feeling inspired, Van Der Kamp did a series called "Grandma's China Cupboard" that used Depression glass to embellish china plates. She dedicated the series to "grandmothers everywhere" -- but notes that the materials in the pieces weren't actually from her own grandmother's cupboard: "I wouldn't give that up," she says.

Instead, for works like the sunset-shaded "Normandie" (above), Van Der Kamp scoured antique stores for Depression glass, adding color and character to ordinary plates.

Van Der Kamp is another second-career artist who used her bachelors in Applied Art indirectly in her first career, working at a frame shop and gallery in Tennessee before transitioning to the full-time gig of child-rearing -- a job from which she's recently retired ."I was lucky to stay home with my daughter," she says. "The best part of my life is over, so now I have a lot more time to devote to art." Van Der Kamp describes her stained glass work as "a hobby that got out of control." Drawn to geometric lines and shapes over the more ornate and feminine, she says she loves the way pieces and parts come together like puzzles when she's manipulating glass. Stained glass eventually evolved into mosaics, and Van Der Kamp devoted a period of her life to mosaic garden stones. "My Sister's Garden" (shown above, and still a work in progress) is Van Der Kamp's latest and most heartfelt mosaic series -- made in honor of her sister, who passed away last year. "She was a big inspiration and one of my best fans," says Van Der Kamp.

The series will probably make its debut next month at a show at Parkview Congregational Church in Aurora, Van Der Kamp says.

Keep reading for more on Sally Van Der Kamp. Lately Van Der Kamp has been embellishing both her garden stone and stained glass with fused work, in order to further embellish and beautify the pieces. The technique, she explains, involves layering bits and pieces of specialty glass in specific design patterns, and then fusing -- aka melting -- them in the "home-sized" kiln in her workshop. "You can get different textures by using different degrees of heat," she adds. Van Der Kamp takes inspiration for her work from the Rocky Mountains. "I like to hike and snowshoe," says the Wyoming transplant. Both of her parents are native Coloradans, though, and since she's lived in Colorado for about fourteen years, she considers this state to be in her blood. Van Der Kamp is mostly self-taught; she honed her craft by reading and experimenting, she says: "Experimenting is the best way to learn." Van Der Kamp finds glass at local shops and antique stores, and also has a supplier in north Denver. When traveling, she always looks for interesting scraps. She even made a great find on Craigslist: "A gal was changing crafts and selling out her glass supply," she says. Van Der Kamp says her pieces are one-of-a-kind, and she's right. "I'm able to hunt around for scraps and special pieces of glass to make a certain color swirl or formations," she says. "That would be really hard to duplicate, because each piece of glass is so different." Van Der Kamp currently shows her work at Nixon's Coffee House and recreation centers within the South Suburban Parks and Recreation system (she's appeared at Goodson Recreation Center and Lone Tree Recreation Center), as well as some of the Arapahoe Public Library locations. She's also a member of the Littleton Fine Arts Guild, which is where she met Kitty Marini, also showing at Nixon's this month.

This is the second joint show by Van Der Kamp and Marini. "We really like the way our art shows together," Van Der Kamp explains. You can catch the artists at a reception at Nixon's on Friday, January 31, which runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Her pieces range from $50 to $100; they'll be available for sale at Nixon's, or contact Van Der Kamp at 303-819-0088 or [email protected]

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Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase