After cultivating her Japanese education in Asian linguistics and literature, Steinmann decided to pursue another passion by enrolling in E-seed, a business start-up program, through the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College in Fall 2014.
“Had I not done that, I wouldn’t have had the courage or information to do this,” she says of her fledgling business, Ooh, Shiny! Art Glass, which she’s been working at full time since April. “It really started when I had people buying necklaces off of me saying, ‘How much do you want for that?’”
She also credits the “nurturing of the local arts scene.” “This is a great place for art. … I see all the potential,” Steinmann adds, noting she’d like to see public glass works added to the Fox Cities.
Steinmann has been working with glass for half of her lifetime after starting with fusing at the age of 14. Her mother taught a class in stained glass at the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade in Neenah, which Steinmann took part in.
Today, she works with abstract glass making — creating mostly corporate awards and gifts, like a vase or a bowl.
The items can be handpainted and then fused into solid pieces. In the future, Steinmann would like to expand her medium by incorporating screen printing, so business logos, for example, could be included in her work. No matter the design, however, Steinmann enjoys creating “usable art.”
“The thing I really enjoy is it’s functioning, you can use it every single day,” she says. “When someone contacts me and says, ‘I have a need and these parameters,’ and to be able to work within those parameters is so rewarding.”
Steinmann recently created a vase in an African Batik-style that a client planned to gift as a wedding present. Although Steinmann had less than a week and little direction on the project, she created a flowy, 10-inch high design. With clients who don’t have a specific idea in mind, Steinmann likes to inquire about interest in styles, colors and where the piece will be used.
“That was fun,” shares Steinmann. “I think my imagination goes more wild for custom and commission work. I’m not thinking as deeply about who the end user is and how they’ll use it.”
Steinmann begins with a sketch and takes inventory of her supplies for the right colors. She likes to talk through the design first and provide a quote on each project. Most orders take two to three weeks to complete depending on size and quantity, but can take a week for a simple bowl.
“I don’t just use what’s in my stock because it’s too limiting,” she says. “No glass is the same. … I want to make sure my customer gets something one of a kind.”
Steinmann designs everything from simple materials to more ornate looks. She works with Bullseye Glass Co. In Portland, Ore. and a distributor in Chicago.
“There are almost endless possibilities of what you can do with it (glass). Just when you think you’ve mastered it, there’s something else to learn,” she shares.
Steinmann started learning “glass combing” through classes she began taking in September at The Vinery Stained Glass Studio in Madison. The marbling technique heats the glass to almost 2,000 degrees — until molten hot — and a metal rake is used to create the effect. It’s important to Steinmann to be able to continue her education and invest in her business while creating quality and durable products.
“Who knows, maybe my work will be in the Louvre 100 years from now,” Steinmann says wistfully.