Glass artist, innovator, author, and teacher, Kay Bain Weiner has been called “The First Lady of Glass” for good reason. In 2006 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Glass Industry.
Always passionate about creating with her hands, Kay attended art school, while a teenager in Miami, Florida, where she was involved in various art and craft projects.
Later, as a freshman at the University of Southern California, she intended to conquer the world of interior or fashion design. Those plans changed, however, when she met her future husband. The move from her family home in Florida to New Jersey was unexpectedly the beginning of a new craft direction that would evolve into a lifetime of artistic commitment and achievement.
As fate would have it, Kay’s father in-law had been involved in the glass industry for many years. At Kay’s request, he shared his knowledge and introduced her to others in the industry.
Glass piqued Kay’s interest and she enrolled in the Crafts Students League in New York City, where she studied glass enameling. Here the students had to construct their own kilns since there were no glass kilns at that time. She found the size of kilns very limiting, she asked her father in-law to teach her to work in stained glass. “Only commercial studios were doing stained glass. It was just not in vogue,” Kay explains. “But I really wanted to take my interest in painting and crafts and expand in another direction.
In 1968, Kay became involved in another artistic endeavor. She had founded the Artist and Craftsman Guild, an art center in Cranford, New Jersey. The center housed an art gallery that represented many artists, an art supply and frame shop and facilities for holding art and craft classes. This provided an arena for Kay to offer stained and fused glass classes to the public and helped make glass art an enjoyable hobby.
It was during the 1970s that Kay was asked by a craft manufacturer to design stained glass hobby kits. Kits included solder, lead came, and pre-cut glass wrapped on a card. Kay designed the patterns, which included birds, sailboats, and other simple motifs. Within a few years, these became larger boxed kits for lamps and three-dimensional items using copper foil. “I was responsible for the designs and wrote the instructions for the packages,” she says. Eventually, distributors such as Sears, Roebuck & Co, and JC Penney were selling more than forty different kits that Kay created under the trade name of Endeavor Products Mfg.
Kay continued to diversify while in the midst of her success with the stained glass kits. In 1981, at the National Hobby Industry Tradeshow, where Kay’s kit company was exhibiting, the editor of Chilton Publishers asked her to write one of the first how-to instruction books on stained glass to be published in the United States.
subsequently, in addition to freelance writing about glass for several magazines, Kay began writing books about some of her favorite techniques in glasswork, such as decorative soldering. She authored 14 books and several instructional videos. Over the years, she and her glass art have been featured in many books written by other authors on the subject of glass. In 2003, her hook Creative Designing won the best new product award in the glass art industry.
Authorship, commissions and product design did not keep Kay from other industry-related activities. She has worked on major commission pieces, including a fourteen-foot wall for a public library in New Jersey.
Kay also developed a ‘working relationship with the -Canfield Solder Company because of her company’s large solder purchases for her mass-produced hobby kits. She has been Canfield’s demonstrator and consultant for over twenty years.
Over the years she has developed several innovative glass techniques such as decorative soldering and glass-related products and techniques including a color enhancement called Color Magic for glass and metal.
One of the first annual glass conferences in the United States she attended, was called Portcon and was held in California. It was at this time that Kay started demonstrating glass saws and machinery for Gemstone Equipment Mfg. A few years later, she began demonstrating at the early national Glass Expo shows.
Kay has been a regularly featured lecturer and workshop instructor at all of the major trade shows in the glass industry since they began and was named “One of the Three Leading Instructors” in 1994 by the Art Glass Suppliers Association International Trade Show. In 1995 she was named “Best Instructor of the Year.” She has taught hundreds of workshops worldwide and, when asked what her favorite glass related work is, says, “I love to teach!”
Through the years, Kay’s involvement with glass has never wavered. Recently she revealed that “there really isn’t anything I haven’t wanted to learn about glass.” And what she had learned, she has shared to the great benefit of those who also love the art of glass.