Aug 18, 2011

Interview with Peter Billington

We here at Wall Eye are pretty excited for the next show, The Art of Artisans. It's the first show featuring furniture (of the functional kind) and art from craftsmen. Particularly impressive are the stained glass pieces by Peter Billington. Each piece is a testament to the harmony of craftsmanship and art through the obvious hard work involving glass to the hand painted vignettes in its panes.

Wall Eye Gallery:
Tell us about your background and how you came to be an artist. And specifically a glass artist. You don’t see too many artists working in that medium.

Peter Billington: I was always interested in the arts, since a toddler when my grandfather would draw caravans and circus animals over my finger painting. I went to CSU for liberal arts majoring in painting. Had a summer job working at Whitney Stained Glass studio when I was about 19. After graduation, I floated around for a few years, working at an art supply store and a movie theatre. Aside from learning lots of technical details about art supplies, which is truly helpful, I learned one thing. That I hated working retail. After about 4 years, I went back to my old boss, who was a friend of the family, and asked for a job and he reluctantly hired me first part-time then shortly full-time. Jim encouraged me to delve deeply into the craft and sent me to a number of intensive workshops to further my education. Jim passed away from cancer about 6 years ago and I purchased the studio from his widow about 5 years ago. The majority of projects that my studio works on is church work, both restoration and new work.

WEG: It's interesting that you had a formal education in painting and then glass came later. When you create a piece, what comes first? The idea of the painting or the glass?

PB: Depends. Sometimes I will do a pile of quick paintings or thumbnails, either in watercolor or gouache on black board, in rapid sucession and then decide which ones would work within the medium of traditional stained glass. Sometimes I will start with a specific idea and work with it. Sometimes I will arrange some glass on the table and just spontaneously paint. And sometimes I will have something hanging around the studio for years before being struck with how and where to use it...

WEG: Tell us a bit about your work we are going to see in The Art of Artisans.

PB: The work I put in the show is mostly traditional painted and stained glass, with non-traditional, non-church related subject matter.

WEG: Which Cleveland area artist(s) do you like/admire? Artist(s) outside of Cleveland area?

PB: I admire a lot of artists, but am mostly curious about glass painting and take yearly workshops with some of the best glass painters in the country. That being said, the majority of older glass work is unsigned and more or less anonymously done by craftspeople who probably never considered themselves artists at all. I have a great deal of admiration for these people who built and decorated churches and cathedrals since medieval times.

~ Thank you, Peter! You can learn more about Peter's studio at

Come to the opening reception Friday, August 19 from 6-11pm to see the equally impressive way Peter's pieces have been hung [Oh, yeah, we're patting ourselves on the back] and the fabulous furniture and art.

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