Nikiski artist creates stained glass for church

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2002

To members of the United Methodist Church of the New Covenant in Kenai, an artistic memorial dedicated to deceased members of the congregation sounded like a bright idea.

To make their idea come to light, literally, they commissioned Joyce and Gene Getchell of Glass Menagerie Custom Designs to design and construct a multi-paneled stained-glass window.

The window will be finished and installed in the church's sanctuary this weekend, in time for a reception at the church from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday to display the window to the public.

The idea for the window originally came from church member Esther Rhines, who wanted to donate money for a stained-glass window memorial to her husband, John. The church supported the idea and appointed a committee to carry it out. Other members of the church donated money, as well, so the window could serve as a memorial to several loved ones.

The piece consists of six panels, four that are 34 1/2 inches-by-46 5/8 inches and two that are 21 inches-by-46 1/2 inches, arranged in two rows of three with the smaller panels at the bottom. In all, the window consists of about 60-square feet of glass.

The design for the window has a definite contemporary art feeling to it. The glass makes no distinct pictures in most of the window, just flowing lines of color. In the bottom two panels there are four symbols sand-blasted into antique -- mouth blown, rather than machine made -- flash glass.

According to Joyce Getchell, the symbols were selected for their significance to the Methodist faith. There is a Christian fish symbol; a boat, which represents the way missionaries used to travel; an anchor with a cross; and a cross with a flame.

Cool blues and greens are the predominant colors in the piece, with some warmer colors as highlights. The colors represent a water theme in honor of the Kenai Peninsula and John Rhines, who was a fisher, Getchell said. She was pleased with the look the colors created, as was the church committee.

"Most of the colors in the sanctuary are warm and this will balance it out a little bit," said committee member Jim Evenson. "In a stained-glass window with the light coming through even a blue, which you think of as a cool color, can be radiant. It may not be warm but it is glowing."

To give the piece a religious feeling, Getchell created crosses throughout the window where the solder lines intersect.

She has been doing stained-glass work for 20 years, mostly commissioned pieces in area homes and businesses. The church committee selected her and her husband to do the job.

"I watched her work and she's a great craftsman," said Evenson. "From what we've seen, I'm sure it will be everything we hoped for and more."

This is the first piece Getchell has done for a church, and she was pleasantly surprised by the project.

"I immediately figured they would want something traditional," she said. "But they didn't want to go traditional because every church around here has that. They wanted to go with something a little more contemporary and modern."

Getchell created six or seven designs for the committee to choose from and brought them several samples of glass in a variety of colors to get their approval.

"Even though the church is almost 50-years-old now, I hope it will stand there for another 50 years," Evenson said. "And public taste seems to be more and more accepting of nonrealistic art.

"Old traditional things are no longer moving people quite like they did before, and this design and window should have a contemporary feeling for, I hope, the next 50 years and more."

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