Stunning Glasswork Reflects Artist’s Unique Design Skills
April 15, 2024

The Art of Stained Glass from a Knitter’s Hand

Jill Tarabar is a Master Artisan known for pushing boundaries and casting the “rules” aside, combining artistic mediums others may not think possible.

The Bucks County, Pennsylvania native’s fascination with the art of stained glass creation began in the early 1980’s, shortly after graduating college. While her mother longed for her to pursue a career in law, Jill had other ideas. A job at a craft store in a mall taught Jill that one has to learn the crafts to sell the supplies. Stained glass happened to be one of those crafts, and after learning the basics, she quickly fell in love with the medium and started creating her own designs.

Soon afterwards, Jill’s work caught the eye of a New Jersey gift store she would later learn was part of a chain, and the wholesale orders came calling. The rest, they say, is history.

Jill enjoys creating pieces showcasing nature and the seasons, among other concepts, mixing different textures along the way. Her work entitled “4 Seasons in 4 panels” showcases her appreciation for the natural environment, with each season represented in its own panel, but with a single tree remaining the focus.

 

Much of her work consists of functional gift items such as jewelry boxes, picture frames, Menorahs and Mezuzot. Mixing a variety of clear textured glass with bevels and found objects, she’s also inspired by spirituality and Judaica, the ceremonial art and objects used in the Jewish faith for ritual purposes.

One of Jill’s most powerful sources of inspiration came from a two-week pilgrimage to Poland and Israel she took with her husband in 2017. The unforgettable journey included visits to the deeply depressing extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and the horrendous gas chambers of Majdanek. “Tears well up as I even think of this site,” recalls Jill.

The pilgrimage then shifted to Israel, where the sense of darkness and despair was replaced by light and a hope for a bright future. There, Jill visited Nativ Ha’asara, a settlement literally on the border with Gaza. A local ceramic artist shared some of her experiences living in the shadow of the conflict and invited Jill to participate in her peace project, decorating the gray security barriers with colorful ceramic tiles within feet of the border fence with Gaza. Jill would go on to recreate that scene in a fused glass piece entitled “Path to Peace,” complete with a dove holding down the barbed wire so prevalent in that region.

As talented as Jill is with conventional stained glass, she is also an avid knitter, having discovered the art of knitting with wire and exploring the medium as a way to combine knitting with stained glass. Her technique includes soldering metal knitting needles into glass, and she can create knit-stitched textured glass. “I look at other artists at fairs, and they have one thing and they do it well,” Jill laughs, “But I feel like I may get bored if I focus on one thing too much.”

For Jill, sharing her work with people is the most rewarding thing about being an artist. She truly enjoys having conversations with people who are fascinated by what she does and relishes the opportunity to talk to people who understand art and what goes into it.

“It’s neat to watch people go by and stop in their tracks, do a double take and come back,” says Jill, recalling her Rose Squared show experiences. “Sharing what I do with people is really fun.”

Looking ahead, Jill notes teaching is among her long-term aspirations as an artist, something she enjoyed doing at a local arts center prior to the pandemic. Today, she can do that and more in the 20’x20’ open and airy workspace she recently completed in her own home. “The copper foil method of stained glass is a dying art, with fewer people doing it,” Jill notes. “I’d love to share the technique with folks so it doesn’t get lost.”

Look for Jill at the Spring and Fall Brookdale Park Art Shows taking place in Bloomfield, New Jersey the weekends of June 15-16 and October 19-20, 2024. Visit her online storefront at jistdesigns.com.