Stained Glass in Hawaii

Email by Joseph Dwight, edited by Elizabeth on July 25, 2009

Stained Glass in Hawaii Image

When Joseph renewed his membership this year, I couldn't help but be curious about what it would be like to be a stained glass artist so very far away from us, here on the "mainland". Did he have a different color palette? What kind of designs were popular there? What was the stained glass scene like in Hawaii? Joseph, was a bit apprehensive at first – he said he's not a man of many words - but he very graciously sent me this response.

I think you'll find it interesting to hear about stained glass created in paradise…

Since I started messing around with glass in 1979, a lot has changed here in Hawaii.

At that time, there were 5 good sized stained glass retail and wholesale outlets/studios on Ohau, however none on the other islands. Wholesale pricing in Hawaii, was like the retail cost on the mainland. (wrap your head around that!) Some of my in laws took a stained glass class and I got interested watching them. So I am self taught. I learned by hanging around a couple of the studios and asking questions.

The cheapest glass you could buy then was Spectrum, a sheet of streaky red was $98.00 USD and this was back in 1980. So doing stained glass in Hawaii was very expensive. In the beginning, I would do craft fairs and the stuff I made were designs out of the few pattern books I had, through the 1980's. I started to draw my own designs and discovered that if I could draw it - I could make it. Most of what I was designing and building were tropical flowers, the ocean and underwater scenes. Over the last 30 years I have done less than 20 panels that were not island themed.

Being a glass artist in Hawaii today is no easy task. There are no local suppliers at all, sorry, my mistake, there is one,.but I generally stock 3 times the inventory they have.

Back in 1996, I got downsized out of my regular job in the food and beverage industry at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I am strictly a commission stained glass artist and have been lucky enough to earn a living doing glass full-time ever since. I have 3, maybe 4 competitors doing what I do; one who is a very good friend. He was trained at a classical school in Canada, so he is able to tell me what I am doing different from how its taught, but always reminds me, my way is faster and the end result is the same or better.

I have been told over the years that I should charge for design work. My answer to that has always been why should someone pay me if I can't design what they want? What I do is really what I see around me, I live in paradise, surrounded by all the bright and beautiful colors of the flowers, mountains and the ocean. What I do get paid for is my ability to recreate that in glass. How I do, what I do, I still ask myself that question. I have no formal training in any kind of art. I didn't know I could draw until I tried drawing my own designs. The more I did the better I got. As I said, there only a few of us who are able to make a living at this.and all our styles, color and textures choices are quite different. So if you like one artist you probably won't care for the others.

Doing any kind of business in Hawaii is difficult considering all my supplies come from at least 2,500 miles away, yet I have been lucky enough to be successful at my art and able to continue to live in the most beautiful place in the world. I really wouldn't want it any other way.

Joe Dwight/Joe Dwight Stained Glass.

Thank you very much Joseph.

See more of Joseph's work in the AISG members gallery.