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2013 Master of the Southwest Chris Powers - Stained-glass artist

Author: Linda Peters
Issue: March, 2013, Page 118
Photos by David B. Moore

Chris Powers is flanked by a pair of leaded stained-glass panels he created for the doors of a wall unit at a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Unleashing his innate creativity and sense of color, self-taught Arizona artisan Chris Powers works magic with glass

It is Chris Powers’ fascination with color and light that has driven him to continually refine and try new methods and techniques with his stained-glass art over the past 30 years. But his ability to visualize a finished piece, often made with thousands of small shards of glass, is what allows him to create most anything.

“I have an instinct with color,” the self-taught artist remarks. “That’s what Joe (Beeler) told me.” Powers worked on four 5-by-10-foot stained-glass panels with the late cowboy artist for a client’s home. After completing the work, Powers transformed a few of Beeler’s cowboy paintings into stained glass, including one titled Apache Moon. His use of color and the amount of detail, using “a couple thousand pieces of glass,” make the leaded lines in the piece seem to disappear.

Working from Powers Stained Glass in south Scottsdale with two of his brothers, Powers says he always sketches or draws his designs before cutting glass. “There’s a real technical aspect to stained glass,” he notes. “I have to consider the physical stability of the piece. Certain designs can’t be done.”

This 45"H x 30"W copper-foil stained-glass piece is titled Apache Moon. It was originally painted by Western-artist Joe Beeler and was recreated in stained glass by Chris Powers.
Yet, when clients, such as renowned Scottsdale architect Vern Swaback, have a project in mind but may not have the specifics at hand, they turn to Powers. “When you are doing conceptual artwork that is to be integrated into architecture, it’s very difficult,” Swaback comments. “Chris is very helpful at the front end in putting sketches into a 3-D model.”

Powers has taken many of Swaback’s designs and made them a reality, including some made exclusively of metal. These include two 14-foot-high steel columns Swaback refers to as “the sentries” that he designed for a Connecticut home. “Chris is very willing to experiment,” says Swaback. “There is a close relationship between art and craftsmanship, and he embodies those two elements in one.”

Powers’ love of experimentation has allowed him to create unique stained-glass pieces. Besides the traditional method of copper-foil stained glass, Powers uses a technique he calls fused, or melded, glass that combines layers of glass. Sometimes just one layer with paint is cooked onto the glass. Other times, paint is fired under multiple layers of glass, which gives the piece a textured appearance. He often designs and makes metal frames for his works as well.

Although Powers is inspired by old Western movies, his portfolio covers most any subject, including three sports-themed panels for the wall behind a bar at the home of Paradise Valley, Arizona, residents Nancy and Tom DeMark. “He immediately takes an idea to the next level,” she says. “He’s so excited and enthusiastic about the craft. He makes you think outside the box.” Powers even incorporated the likeness of Nancy’s husband into the basketball panel.

Powers also recreated Seat With a View, a 361/2"H x 60"W painting by Joe Beeler, in copper-foil stained glass.
And Powers’ art is not limited to windows. His work has graced homes in the form of stained-glass entry doors, privacy panels in backyards and behind bathtubs, pantry doors and cupboard insets, as well as stained-glass windows and panels for chapels and churches.

The artist’s mother is the person who inspired his creative side, Powers acknowledges. In an attempt to keep 11 children occupied, she would sit them all down to draw and paint.

The artist and two of his brothers started their business right out of high school. When a contractor asked them to create a stained-glass window for a home, they couldn’t refuse. Although he had never worked with stained glass before, Powers says he has the ability to look at something and figure out how to do it.

“When I handled the glass, there was no turning back,” he recalls, reflecting on that fateful day.

The artisan also designed and made a trio of sports-themed panels for the home’s wet bar.
Comprised of a series of sports-themed panels designed and fabricated by Chris Powers, this door opens to a phone booth in a Paradise Valley home.
This melded-glass artwork titled Leaning Cowboy incorporates hand-painted pieces, making it feel like a painting. It measures 23"H x 8"W and is an original creation by Chris Powers.

Architect Vernon Swaback refers to the tall twin towers designed by Powers for one of his projects as “the sentries.”
An arched glass art panel depicting a pig brings a whimsical touch to a butler’s pantry. The mosaic band mimics the mosaic glass tile backsplash.
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