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Home | HOUSTON | Spotlight | Spotlight - Kim Clark Renteria, Lighthouse Glass

Spotlight - Kim Clark Renteria, Lighthouse Glass

image Kim Clark Renteria, Owner, Lighthouse Glass, Houston, TX

HOUSTON - From sweaters to stained glass, Kim Clark Renteria has always been creating beautiful works of art. Through her business, Lighthouse Glass, she has brought breathtaking light and color to commercial, residential and sacred spaces and public places for nearly 30 years. Wherever people find her work, it inspires people to look through the glass and to see inside themselves.


When did your interest in art and stained glass begin?

    I’ve always had an interest in art; I majored in art at the University of Denver and graduated in 1973. Afterward, I started designing sweaters, and I had a sweater company that I did in Vail, New York, Toronto, Montreal and Hong Kong.
    I then just became really interested in stained glass; I saw it in a few homes and I’d always liked it. I was living in Texas where sweaters weren’t [practical], and I also just wanted a change from knitwear; I had been teaching knitwear design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University when I moved. I was teaching art at a Montessori school and also taking stained glass classes and I knew I wanted to do that full time, so I started Lighthouse Glass in 1991.

What were those early years as a business owner like for you?
    I didn’t have a big portfolio and the word of mouth wasn’t out. The first few years it was about developing the business and the clients. I didn’t have people calling me up and saying, “Oh, the bishop has seen several of your windows in these churches and wants to use you for this.” I didn’t have a reputation yet.

When did you begin noticing your business starting to take off?
    I think when we started doing sacred spaces as opposed to friends’ bathroom windows [is when I saw business take off] – and when you charge by the square foot, that’s a good thing. The first sacred space I did was the fellowship hall of the synagogue, Emanu El Temple. Then we did a small window at the First Christian Church of Christ right across the street from the synagogue. We did a couple of hospital projects and it grew from there.

With whom do you share your studio?

    Selena Precella has worked with me for 22 years; we have a great working relationship, which is really nice. We have a studio cat named “Twang”; I named her that because she seems like she came right out of a country and western song. I also have a Chinese Box Turtle that my granddaughter named “Lavender” who lives outside.

What would you consider a “dream project” that you would like to be a part of?
    I’d love to do some public art in an airport; that would be nice.

Why do you feel people have strong emotional reactions to stained glass?
    People do have a really strong response to stained glass. I think it’s because it’s light – some people are really sensitive to light ­– and it’s also light coming through colors. Also, the way I design is very specific to the people involved; oftentimes, it’s their ideas coming to fruition. Sometimes people don’t know exactly what they want,
so we brainstorm and it’s personal for them. Stained glass also changes all of the time. You can see trees moving through it and it can sort of connect you to nature. It’s changing art; it’s never the same. You’ll see it at 8 o’clock in the morning, you’ll see it on a rainy day, a sunny day, and at night. It’s always something new. It twinkles.
Do you have stained glass windows in your own home?
    Yes, I do. I have probably way too much of it! I’ll do something and study it. For instance, I wanted to study what all red stained glass windows with different kinds of reds would look like, so in the living room there are red windows. I’ll do something and put them up and in six years take them down and put up and study something else. I have stained glass in almost every window.

Who, or what, inspires your stained glass creations?

    The clients inspire me, to be truthful. People have ideas and a space that they want done. Sometimes people don’t know what they want and then we start talking and they find out more about their tastes. There are a lot of things that are considered besides what someone likes. It’s controlling the light to the specifications of the project and then the colors and style that go with the people’s taste. It’s very customized.
What do people misunderstand about the kind of work that you do?
    Some people think of stained glass as not a fine art, that it is “hobbyish,” with peace signs and flowers. I think stained glass is a fine art form.
    Also, people don’t know that we can ship the stained glass anywhere. We’ve shipped windows to France, New York and Guatemala in crates.

What has running this business taught you?
    Just when you think things are not good or slow, something pops up. It’s a fun roller coaster to ride!

Do you think you are predominately right-brained because of the stained glass that you do or left-brained because you run a business?
    I definitely am right-brained. As a matter of fact, when people ask me to [mentor a relative who is an artist], I tell them that before I talk to them, they need to take business classes in college because I had to learn the slow way.

Because your job is so creative, I’m curious to know how you unwind in your free time.
    I love to go to the gym and take spin classes. I go to the opera and the theatre. I love film. I also love traveling, and travel whenever I can. I’ve traveled a lot in Southeast Asia; I lived in Hong Kong for nearly six years. I’m going to Bali this summer, and I went to Tahiti last spring. My parents were Canadian so I would go to Canada in the summers sometimes.

Do you collect anything?
    Glass, lots of glass! There’s a whole-saler in town that I buy from, and most of it is from the Pacific Northwest, England, France; the Pacific Northwest has quite a few stained glass studios.
    I do buy Depression glass plates and things that I use in the windows that I get at antique or junk stores. I’ve been doing a lot of fused glass in the last five years and I make dinner plates, platters and functional pieces out of fused glass and that’s exciting.

Share a little about your family.

    I have three sons. Fraser lives in Bend, OR with his wife Michelle and their four children. Adam lives in Houston with his wife Sylvia and my grandson. Will lives in Houston with his girlfriend Eilleen. I just love my grandchildren!

Are any of your family members interested in your work?
    My sons have worked with me but only worked for the money, not the art form. I’ve shown my older grandchildren how, but I think the youngest one, Stefan, who is 3½, might be a stained glass artist when he grows up. He walked up the stairs the other day and said, “Granny, I like the purple and white – he calls the clear glass “white” – and I said, “Good work, Stefan! It’s my plan for him to take over the business.

The business can be renamed “Lighthouse Glass … & Stefan”! Do you think you will eventually leave the stained glass business to pursue a different interest, as you did with knitwear?
    No, I am a glass addict. That’s the story and I’m sticking with it!
    Subcontractor Lighthouse Glass is located in Houston. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net