Lake Life Review

We are at it again! This time we were taken to Spencer to Vermeer Glass to make some art! Our normal crew all had babies. Big congrats to Tara and her baby boy, Wyen. And Max and his twins Molly and Miller! Since they are both trying to catch up on their sleep, Tara and Max were out of commission for a review. We recruited our family. And for this time, I am so glad we did. Usually, we don’t bring kids to our reviews. This time, I brought my daughters, Fran and Lauren, and Joy brought her girls, Charlotte and Anna. All four of them are artists so they were excited for the venture.

I mentioned to my husband, who is the art teacher at Spirit Lake High School, what we were doing for the review. His eyes perked up. He didn’t have to say anything, I knew the artist in him wanted in!

So, the seven of us headed to Spencer to Vermeer Glass. I didn’t know what to expect. But as a Graphic Designer by trade, who uses a computer to always aid my art, I have to say I was a little intimidated. When we arrived, we walked through the Gallery part of the shop. The walls and displays were filled with beautiful glass art and wall art – the bowls, platters, and coasters were gorgeous.

We continued to the workshop which was surrounded by color! There were so many colors to soak in - endless colors of tubs filled with glass. It was just beautiful. We all sat at a station and waited for our instructions. Jim and Julie introduced themselves and started sharing the safety process for the afternoon. Julie explained all the tools in our “bucket of tools.” By now, I was pretty intimidated, but the artists we brought along were looking excited!

Jim and Julie showed us some examples of things we could do. I think that was the hardest part, deciding what to make. But before I knew it, everyone was busy with completely different ideas.

I was thinking small. My idea was to make a small Lake Life Ornament, with Christmas around the corner. Lauren made a beautiful glass scene of butterflies and lilacs. Fran made a sun catcher with an elephant. Anna made an abstract suncatcher with a star in the middle, with pieces of glass forming a rainbow gradient around it. Joy made a decorative Christmas Tree suncatcher. All these pieces were made with tact firing, which uses a lower temperature firing to make the glass fuse together. But it still has the dimension of each piece.

Brad and Charlotte both made full fuse creations. This is where all the glass placed on their piece will fuse completely together to form a flat piece of glass. Or in other words, fusing all the pieces of glass together forms its own glass. I think that might be the easiest way to explain it. Brad’s was a piece of art for sure. An abstract design with vertical bands of glass, along with using dots and stringers. Charlotte made a bowl with layers of cut glass. Her project looked very fun. Not so much precision cutting. Just putting colors together. Next time, I might do that!

Yes, I said next time. Although I came in a bit…okay, very intimidated, Jim and Julie showed us so many techniques. The first thing I had to do was grind my circle to take off the edges. I discovered the circle is hard to cut. Glass likes to break from edge to edge. So, I started with a circle with a bit of points on it. Julie showed me how to use the wet grinder. To be honest, I figured she would just do it for me. HA! That is the easy way, right. But no, she showed me how to grind it and left me to accomplish my task. I was pretty proud of myself for taking it on.

Some of the others used the saw as well. Lauren cut out her butterflies with the saw, while Fran cut out pieces of her elephant using the saw. Brad, I really don’t think he needed to saw anything, but he wanted to try ALL the tools and types of glass. Just to experience each thing, from cut glass, to glass frit and powered, to the glass strings and dots.

My ornament went fast. It was just a small ornament, but it was perfect for me to experience the process. After I was done, I went to the front of the shop to browse through Jim and Julie’s artistic creations. Julie tends to do more of the landscape art and uses tack fusing, while Jim made a lot of the modern pieces with a full fuse. Their works are amazing! After just finishing a piece that was pretty rough, to say the least. I got more and more ideas to do more. So, who wants to take an afternoon and make some glass art with me? I am ready for my next project! Jim warned me that this art is addicting. I totally agree! Who’s in?

More about Vermeer Glass Art
Many retirees hit their later years and decide to purchase an RV and travel the country. Jim and Julie Vermeer had different ideas and decided to return to their roots and opened Vermeer Glass Art: Studio and Gallery in late 2020 in Spencer. Since Nov. 18, 2020, they have had over 400 people create works of art in their studio.

This Nov. 18-20, the Vermeers will be celebrating their one-year anniversary with an open house. Stop in and sign up for prize drawing.

A Creative Stress Reliever
Jim and Julie Vermeer have been making works of art for over 23 years. For many of those years, they would spend countless weekends attending 10-12 art shows a season, showcasing their magical fused glass art pieces. The Tree of Life display would be centered in the back of the booth and tables would be filled with colorful items like platters, bowls, and suncatchers.

Julie retired in 2020 as a RN Emergency Room nurse, while Jim is retiring this December as Vice President of Business Development at Corn Belt Power Cooperative.

“Art has always been my stress reliever,” Julie said. “I would have a bad day at work, and I’d go home and break glass and make something beautiful.”

The couple has loved showcasing their work at their gallery in Spencer, rather than packing and unpacking at numerous art shows. The back portion of the building is a beautiful studio, equipped for classes and visitors. Their on-site kilns complete the artistic process and birth beautiful creative ideas.

“I love seeing what people create,” Julie said. “We may be hosting a class, and everyone is doing the same project but no one project is the same or looks the same. People add their own creative touches to make each one unique.”

Color abounds in the gallery. Colorful glass of all shapes and sizes line tubs and spaces on the wall. Fusing art glass has provided the Vermeers with the freedom to experiment and manipulate glass through color, texture, shape, and how a piece will be used, be it a functional serving plate, platter, bowl or a decorative piece of art.

“There are infinite possibilities when fusing with art glass that can be very exciting and challenging,” Jim added.

Jim was introduced to fused glass 24 years ago at a trade show in Florida. A man was creating Disney figurines with a torch.

“It really intrigued me, and Julie suggested I take some classes,” he shared. “I went to a 3-day class in Minneapolis and fell in love with fused glass and its possibilities. I say to people, ‘You should try it – you will get hooked on it!’”

One of the biggest things about fusible color glass is there is a color for everyone. There are multiple shades within a color and creations abound from decorative glass plates, bowls, displays and wall displays for office or home décor.

“Magic is the only way to describe what it's like for us to fuse art glass. When a glass piece goes into the kiln for firing, its appearance is how it was assembled. But after firing and opening the kiln, the kiln gods have given a gift which may or may not bring forth an ‘Ahhhh!’” Jim said.

The couple takes great pride in their handmade fused art glass and thoroughly enjoys sharing the creative process with others. They offer specific classes every month, but also welcome drop-ins. Located at 302 Grand Ave., in Spencer, more information can be found at Vermeer Glass on Facebook or at their website,