Found Things: Through a Prism Darkly

Published: December 1, 2015

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About two decades ago, Trina Young was looking for a creative outlet, but nothing she did really set her alight. Then she discovered stained glass in a class she took with a work friend.

“I loved it,” Young said. Everything about the materials and techniques tugged at her, and she got her own soldering equipment, colored glasses and, now, a studio at her house in rural Elma, between Olympia and the coast, and a business — Sister Art Glass.

Stained glass has a particular affinity for the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles that particularly appeal to Young’s aesthetic sense. One of her earliest pieces was inspired by an Art Deco print of a young woman looking out to the sunset over a churning sea.

But Young mixes in very modern, eclectic styles when she works on her latest pieces, a series of kaleidoscopes and boxes that are, quite often, designed to look like coffins. On them, she pastes baubles that she has collected over time from junk sales, thrift shops, art supply stores and various and sundry unexpected places.

“I have boxes and boxes of these amazing, inspiring things,” Young said. “I know that if I sit and look at them, often one will catch my eye and I’ll know what I want to do with it.”

Some tiny playing cards with Wild West “ladies of the night” got her thinking, and led her to pair them with dice, a miniature cow skull, and turquoise pieces for her cowboy coffin box. She took small gears and a chain and worked them together to pull a pair of bat wings that she stitched herself on a kaleidoscope. Tiny ravens and skeletons bedeck a vertical jewelry box, a visual pun on skeletons in the closet. An antique toilet float, once painted, becomes an integral part of a piece.

Sitting in a bright studio, with a field of wildflowers and a park right next door, you wouldn’t think the Steampunk look would come naturally to Young. But it does meld her interest in the art styles of the Edwardian age and lets her be playful with her dark side.

“I think we all have a dark side, and I needed to explore mine, and this is the result.” Plus, she added, she’s gotten more positive reactions than she expected, particularly from younger people.

Her work, which she sells as far away as Australia on Etsy, was the result of a decision to step away from selling small jewelry pieces and to focus on creating larger, riskier pieces. Following her muse has paid off.