Lori Hawkins works on a piece of stained glass art at her Royal Oak home studio. She says it “gives me a freedom of expression” to create. (Photos by Ashley Elaine Brown, New York, N.Y.)

Lori Hawkins still has the first piece of stained-glass art she made some 35 years ago. While most of her other works decorates other people’s homes, that first piece, a pair of tulips survived a devastating hurricane and then made the trip from Florida to her home in Royal Oak.
“That will never go away,” she said. “I’ll always have that.”
Hawkins started in stained glass while living in Florida and just before her daughter was born.
She said she was not only looking for something to occupy her downtime but also a way to scratch her itch of creative design.
“I was bored,” she said. “My background was in art and I said, ‘You know, I think I’d like to know how to do this.’”
She started with some classes, learned the basics and soon had her work featured through her then-husband’s kitchen design company.
Adorning cabinet doors with glass art mosaics and images became her signature project.
With help from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hawkins had to pull up stakes in Florida and come back to Maryland but did not give up on glass.
Working out of her home, Hawkins continues to churn out “flat panel” works for windows, doors and walls, but also branched out into sculpture.
Using drift wood collected from nearby shorelines as the piece’s base, she creates waterfowl and other scenes filled with color and creativity. Along with custom pieces, Hawkins sells her work at area arts festivals and through her website, glasscraftdesign.com.
“I try to center it around the Chesapeake Bay,” she said. “I like free-form pieces. It’s different, it’s not symmetrical, it has its own character.”
To start a project, Hawkins hand draws all her own patterns then takes it to a “light table” which illuminates the pattern from the bottom and begins the painstaking but rewarding process of cutting, wrapping and soldering glass pieces into place.
“It’s basically like a jigsaw puzzle because each piece has to fit together,” she said. “It’s enormously fulfilling to me because it’s a challenge. I like to create things. I love color and I love to draw.”
Once cut, each piece is wrapped in copper foil tape. That helps bond everything together with soldering each seam on both sides of the glass.
Hawkins said her graphic design training has helped her but there are pre-designed patterns available. From there, she said it’s practice that secures the skill to make the art.
“Anybody can do it, really. It’s not a special gift I was given,” she said. “You just have to develop a touch and it’s practice that gets you there.”
Cutting the glass efficiently may take the most practice, she added. Key is seeing how the veins of the glass run which can make it break in certain directions.
But even mistakes don’t go to waste for Hawkins, her workspace is loaded with coffee cans and other containers of chips and pieces of glass, organized by color, that could find a home in a future piece.
“I save it all,” she said. “You just never know.”
After that, the finished work may leave Hawkins, but, like that first pair of tulips, a piece of it will always stay behind.