Meet the Market: Diane Volrath and Her Glass Flowers

Diane Vorlath Stained Glass Flowers
Diane Volrath sells her stained glass flowers at the Saturday Farmers Market in Iowa City. — photo by Heidi McKinley.

Diane Volrath makes flowers out of stained glass which she sells at the Saturday Farmers Market in Iowa City, her studio in Camanche, Iowa, as well as 100 retail locations across the U.S. and Canada.

Volrath got her start as an artist by making cakes for friends and co-workers in order to earn extra money in college. She was studying for a degree in business administration and accounting with plans to go into business law; however, word of her cake-decorating skills got around, and by the time she graduated, her plans changed and she decided to open her own cake shop. She owned Cake Creations on Brady Street in Davenport for 17 years, but when she developed baker’s asthma from working so extensively with flour, her career had to change course. It took several more years and several life lessons before she began making flowers out of stained glass.

Little Village: Can you talk a little about your background in stained glass and how you got started making flowers?

I have always been an artist from painting back in grade school to art classes in high school. Bernie Peters was my High School art teacher at North Scott in Eldridge, Iowa and a real influence in my life. I played sports and had a lot of really hard-core classes, so for me art was a class to relax in and use the other side of my brain. (This is why we need arts in School! We need to learn to use both sides of our brains!)

Have you always been inspired by flowers?

I have always loved flowers. In the house, the garden, in fabric patterns when I used to quilt — flowers bring happiness and color to people’s lives.

Earlier this year … I trademarked [the phrase] “Creating Happiness Each Day” because that is what you do when you make flowers all day. It creates happiness in my heart, the person purchasing it for their garden or the person receiving it as a gift.

What other kinds of things inspire you?

My studio sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in Camanche, surrounded by trees, flowers and wildlife. I can watch the Bald Eagles in the winter, pelicans in the spring, the song birds all summer and the geese in the fall …

Diane Vorlath's Stained Glass Flowers
Stained glass flowers on display at Diane Volrath’s Farmers Market stand. — photo by Heidi McKinley.

What is the process of creating a stained glass flower like?

I am asked a lot how long it takes to make a flower but I work in a production process where I cut a lot of petals at once, then grind the rough edges, petals are then painted and fired, [lead] came is wrapped around each piece, they are then soldered, washed, patina is applied, the centers are finished and the flower is polished.

Do you have any pet projects? Or art you’ve done just for fun? Anything experimental?

I am working on stained glass mosaic birdbaths and bowls. These are poured and washed to reveal the stained glass pieces.

Your website also mentions that you work with many mediums. Could you talk a little more about your different kinds of art?

I have my stained glass art in around 100 retail locations across the nation and Canada. Filling the orders and marketing takes up most of my time now. Photography is still in my life but now in the form of product photography for webpages, advertisements, and for copyright purposes …

When I decided to change gears from cake decorating, photography was the first thought. I have been a photo buff since high school and after reading an article about glass slides a friend and I decided to try and print them. In WWI, glass was short and glass slides were recycled into the roofs of greenhouses …

My first thought was to print my travel photography in the form of multi-media art. This would allow my art to be judged into fine art show and museums. What I found was people wanted their own photos to be used. Now I do custom orders for weddings, graduations, family photos, etc.

Are there any projects that you are particularly fond of? Any that you can’t bring yourself to give away or sell?

I had the honor of having a commissioned art piece auctioned off at the Figge Art Museum in March 2007. It was called “Kitty and Razz the center of my wheel” and was displayed in the “Follow the Horses” display. It was a round stained glass panel that looked like a wagon wheel with round glass photos of my personal horses in the center. I created two pieces that looked similar in color and size then choose my favorite to go to the Figge Art Museum. I have the other hanging in my studio. It is very personal to me because my horse “Razz” passed away last year.

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