12/26/2012 11:26:00 AM Williams stained glass artist displays work at Open Studios Despite degenerative disc disease, Eric Dearing creates unique works of art
Above: Eric Dearing stands with one of his stained glass creations outside of Open Studios, where his work is on display. Below: Dearing’s art hangs in the window of Open Studios. Marissa Freireich/WGCN
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams residents may have admired Eric Dearing's stained glass art around town without knowing it. It's in the gate to the Community Garden at St. John's Episcopal-Lutheran Church. It's in the doors and windows of local houses. And now it's on display in a gallery for the first time at Open Studios, 106 S. Ninth St.
Dearing has lived in Williams off and on since 1974. He became a stained glass artist by chance three years ago. Dearing heard about a stained glass artist who was selling her equipment and decided to buy it.
"I started reading a how-to book, and I read about two paragraphs and I just started," he said. "I put the book away and just jumped into it."
And Dearing jumped in head first - his first creation contained 110 pieces of glass.
Prior to working with stained glass, Dearing had never done anything artistic before, besides playing the drums.
Now, he creates a variety of items from stained glass, including windows, decorative panels to hang, bird feeders and zen gardens. Dearing gets inspiration for his art from everything, and also does custom work.
The themes of Dearing's stained glass creations range from landscapes to animals to sports logos. He even did a stained glass rendering of Abraham Lincoln.
Helen Gorney, owner of Open Studios, described Dearing's work as eclectic.
"I think his work is exciting because it's so different," she said. "No two pieces are alike at all. So that to me is kind of refreshing."
Some of Dearing's art contains pieces of mirrors or magnifying lenses. Other pieces have three-dimensional features, such as a turtle's shell that curves outward or a wine bottle that protrudes from both sides.
Dearing likes working with stained glass because it allows him to be creative.
"There's so much freedom," he said. "I could do anything I want."
To make his stained glass art, Dearing first draws out a cartoon, or pattern. Next, he cuts different pieces of colored glass to fit the cartoon. For the last step, Dearing generally uses copper foil, which adheres to the glass and gives the solder something to stick to.
Dearing also does some woodworking, and makes all of his own frames for his stained glass pieces.
Dearing usually completes an average piece in about two weeks. More complex pieces with a lot of detail can take up to two months.
The time can vary based on how Dearing is feeling.
Dearing has had degenerative disc disease, which causes severe back pain, since 1999. His artwork keeps him busy but is not too demanding.
"That's why I like doing it because I'm not on a deadline," he said, adding that he can take breaks if he needs to.
Gorney praised Dearing's determination.
"I'm very proud of Eric doing what he does considering the debilitating disease that he has," she said. "And I think the fact that he's here showing his work may inspire him to do more of his artwork."
In the future, Dearing hopes to start working with hot glass. With this medium, artists use torches to melt glass rods into pendants, marbles and other objects.
"It is really involved because all the different glasses melt at different points," he said. "I'm really excited about it."