HELENA - For Mary Harris, what started as a hobby decades ago has turned into a booming business.
Harris creates stained glass windows, bowls, lamps, and art glass furniture.
Harris had a humble beginning.
“I’m a farmer's kid, and we didn’t have a lot of money. I was the oldest of seven. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and in order to entertain us she went around, picked up things around the yard and around the field, and said, “Hey let’s make something.'”
She hasn’t stopped creating since. Her Helena showroom is a testament to her unending creativity.
Harris’ art pieces have been shipped across Montana and the globe. Her work is featured prominently in some capital city landmarks.
Lately, she has been refining her river table designs.
“Nothing ever scares me, like the river tables I just started. I’ve been doing those a little over a year now. I just had an idea and went with it because that’s what I do,” says Harris, “And each table is completely different from one another because you hate to say the cliche, but the wood tells you what it wants to do.”
Most of the time you will find Harris working in her studio on her commissioned pieces.
She is currently in the middle of a big project for Butte’s Bert Mooney Airport.
“It consists of 27 stained glass windows, and probably 18 sandblasted windows,” Harris says.
Harris describes herself as a perfectionist but says even with her careful planning, the outcomes can still be a surprise
“With stained glass especially, you build it on the flat, so you don’t really know what it’s going to look like until it’s completely finished and you put it up in the light – then you know what it’s going to look like.”
Harris is passing her skills to a new generation of glass artists. Both her son and daughter help around her shop. She also hosts workshops for Intermountain Children’s Home and Shodair Children’s Hospital.
Harris said she hopes more people will explore and use glass art.
“That’s why I like doing the tables, 'cause it’s functional art. I like doing lamps cause it’s functional art. And if you have to use it, it might as well be pretty.”
To see more of Harris’ work, check out her website: harrisartglass.com.