By Jennie Zeitler
The guitar sitting close to Paul Jensen’s glass studio workbench hints at the years spent playing for a rock band. Those years gave way to glass crafting in the 1990s.
Jensen has never taken an art class. But he so enjoyed drawing as he was growing up that he made up his own comic books.
His dad was a regional manager for a glass company in Minot, N.D. Jensen started working summers for the company as a teenager.
He worked on his own with mosaics. “I fiddled around with scraps of glass,” he said. “All you need for mosaics is a glass cutter and breaking pliers.”
So he learned early how to cut glass, how to drill glass — how to work glass.
“I messed around a bit with Dremel tools, but it’s pretty limited what you can do,” he said.
But what he really wanted was to transfer his by-then accomplished artwork from paper to glass. So Jensen found books about glass and studied hard, teaching himself the art.
He and his wife, Pam moved to St. Cloud, where Jensen worked for East Side Glass. By 1995, his hobby of carving and etching glass had grown. The Jensens moved to rural Swanville with their kids, Aaron and Kristine.
In 1998, Jensen was ready to start his business. With the help of a timely raise for his wife, Jensen quit his job in St. Cloud and started “Imagery in Glass” in a new shop built behind his house. As he was building the business, he handled the child care responsibilities.
Jensen’s intricately detailed drawings are transferred to an adhesive-backed stencil, which is adhered to the glass. Parts of the design are cut away with an X-acto knife.
Different techniques are used in varying degrees to produce an image in the glass. Much of the work is done on the back of the glass, some on the front.
The studio’s front workroom holds a carpet-covered workbench often covered with drawings. A compressor sits behind the door and a wood stove is in the corner for heat.
In the back room, Jensen does the sandblasting, wearing an air-fed helmet and using a dust collector.
He uses a variety of thicknesses of glass in various colors. Three-quarter-inch glass is used for heavy-duty table tops.
Jensen makes glass for cabinet doors, coffee tables, mirrors, gun cabinets, house windows, shower enclosures and decorative sculptures.
More recently, he has produced candle holders using empty wine bottles. He carves the outside of the bottle and lacquers it. Wording is then sandblasted on the inside of the bottle.
Jensen has contributed to much larger jobs. He carved windows for three churches in North Dakota. In collaboration with Stonehouse Stained Glass in Avon, he worked on windows for Shepherd of the Pines Church in Rice. With Stonehouse, he also produced stained and etched glass panels for Immanuel Lutheran Church in Princeton.
Stonehouse uses Jensen’s drawings for the stained glass images, which are put on with a paint made of ground glass. The panels are then fired, which melts the paint onto the glass.
“There might be six – eight firings on one window,” Jensen said.
He is now working on windows for St. Peter’s Church in St. Cloud.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” Jensen said. “I like the feeling of being done with a project, and it turns out exactly like I envisioned it. You never know exactly until it’s done.”
For more information, call (320) 573-2473.