Ilene Barnett has had a love of art and the natural world for as long as she can remember. Like so many other artists, she came to her art as a second career, after an exciting and successful “past life” as an environmental biologist. Armed with a B.S. in Environmental Science and an M.S. in both marine and microbiology, for eighteen years, Ilene’s career as an accomplished diver and environmental scientist took her from the enchanting islands of the West Indies and South Pacific to the diverse and complex habitats of inland and coastal Florida. However, her longing to create had never once left her, and she continued to draw and paint the natural world around her.
Having traded life in sunny, flat, southwest Florida for the shadows of the Bitterroot Range and the banks of the Salmon River, the magnificent landscape of eastern Idaho inspired Ilene to create stained glass panels that celebrate the rugged terrain and wildlife of the Rockies. Why glass? many have asked. Ilene says that the medium is so fascinating because of the often-unpredictable interplay of color, texture, form, and most of all— light. Glass is a versatile and wondrous material that has been held in high regard from the Bronze Age to the present. Although blown glass has been the most recognized technique to be used, there are older ways of working with glass that make it possible to create graceful shapes, inviting textures, lustrous transparencies, and rich colors that aren’t possible with blown glass. After studying at Pilchuck and Bullseye Glass Schools in the Pacific Northwest, Ilene’s eyes were fully opened to the magic and mystery of fused (warm) glass. A member of the Glass Art Society, she now crafts her art in the kiln as well.
Glass is a complex substance with firing characteristics that will affect the final results of whatever the artist makes. Ilene’s pieces are designed through careful consideration and selection of each glass used— to enhance the artistic effect of the finished work in varying light conditions. She cuts, grinds, and assembles each piece, and kiln fires the raw “blank” at about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. After cooling, blanks are fired a second time into a mold, allowing the fused glass to form to the desired shape. Each piece is unique. Ilene focuses on creating art glass objects that are functional as well as beautiful, so that they may be used, appreciated, and enjoyed every day.
Ilene recently designed, fabricated and donated a fourteen foot high by eight foot wide stained glass cross to the Gruene United Methodist Church in New Braunfels, Texas. Working with the interior designer and architect on the project, they achieved an uncommon, contemporary design desired by the congregation based upon a “flowing waters” motif.
See SalmonRiverGlassArt.Etsy.com for more of Ilene’s work.