Karen Mehos says her passion for glass art began when she was a “bored little girl in church,” admiring the light filtering through stained glass windows onto the pews.
“I’ve always been drawn to stained glass, the different colors, and the way the light plays with it,” Mehos said during an interview in her Boscawen studio last week. “This is my happy place.”
It was a warm, sunny day, perfect for creating glass art, which Mehos does a lot of in the warmer months. She’s the artist behind Gadzooks Glass, which sells small, fused glass treasures, from holiday decor and night lights to votives (tea light holders) and dishware.
Her studio is a restored backyard shed brimming with glass of all sorts — dyed glass, powdered glass, scrap glass, dichroic glass, opalescent glass, iridized glass — which decorates the walls next to her workbench and hangs behind the front door.
Inside is a baker’s rack lined with trays of unfinished objects, or “UFOs,” as Mehos refers to them, that will eventually become pieces she can sell. There were green and blue fish, tiny bowls, and ornaments displaying holiday scenes: a cardinal atop a tree branch; a moose in a snowstorm; a red pick-up hauling a Christmas tree.
Mehos had much to do before her next big event: the Route 3 Art Trail this Saturday, an open doors driving tour spanning Concord, Penacook, and Boscawen, in which she’s participating alongside 15 other artists. She said she may as well work now, before the studio gets too cool.
“Glass does not like to be cold, unfortunately,” she said, as she scored a piece with an old-fashioned glass cutter for a trio of angel ornaments with pink, blue, white, and clear glass. “If you don’t do it right, her wing falls off!”
After cutting, she sometimes needs to grind the pieces to smooth out the sharp bits. Then she washes and assembles them for her 13-inch kiln, which she can program to heat at different temperatures depending on the finish she desires. Often, Mehos runs the kiln overnight in front of a nanny cam so she can keep an eye on it from afar.
Mehos learned the craft during an elective course while studying biology as an undergraduate at Franklin Pierce University. She’d always loved art, but there was something about glass that drew her especially; often you don’t know what you have till it’s removed from the kiln. Some pieces change color after they’ve been fired. Others change shape.
“It’s like Christmas,” Mehos said. “But you have to wait until it cools down before you can touch it, or else it will break.”
Stained glass art took a backseat when Mehos became a mother, but now her kids are grown. Ten years ago, when she bought her house on Route 3, she converted her backyard shed into a studio and invested in a kiln.
Mehos works third shift at the Farnum Center, which allows her daylight hours for art. Her kids like seeing this side of her, and they support the business in various ways, from helping set up her office to assisting during events like these.
Adele Sanborn, owner of Twiggs Gallery, started the Route 3 Art Trail a couple of years ago when NH Open Doors was canceled due to participation decline. Sanborn had been sorry to see the event fade; she’d been taking part for 20 years, back when her studio was in Webster.
“I loved that artists would open their doors and that people would attend and really be interested,” Sanborn said. “I thought the Route 3 Art Trail could be something similar, and it’s worked out well. We’ve gotten lots of enthusiasm. Plus, a lot of us artists are recluses, so it’s good for us to open our doors every once and awhile.”
In addition to Gadzooks Glass and Twiggs Gallery, participating studio locations include Jo Shields Studio, Marshall’s Florist & Gifts, Garden Sculptures & Whimsys, Front Room Art Studio, Monica Cote, Chadwick Hill Rustic Furniture, and the Bittersweet Fabric Shop.
The Route 3 Art Trail driving tour takes place Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees who stop at five or more studios will be entered into a raffle to win a piece of art by one of the participating artists. Visit route3arttrail.com for a map with addresses.