Artist puts modern spin on stained-glass art

Brooke Dearborn Huston creates stained-glass art out of her home in Iowa City.


Tian Liu

Stained glass artist, Brooke Huston poses for a portrait in her studio on July 10, 2019. (Tian Liu/The Daily Iowan)

Seton Warren, News Reporter

Light fills Brooke Dearborn Huston’s studio on a sunny afternoon, illuminating her stained-glass art pieces. The walls are lined with boxes full of colorful glass waiting to be used in her next creation. The studio came together after years of hard work and a passion for creativity.

Huston began creating stained-glass art in 2015. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in sociology, she decided to seek out a mentor and learn how to work with glass — something she had long wanted to do.

“It was kind of a difficult process,” Huston said. “Before I was doing this, I was making silly pins and selling them, and I just felt like it was time for me to hone my art a little better and do something a little more grown up while still being true to myself.”

Huston has come a long way from her humble beginnings, working out of a dim, basement studio. Now, she creates art in a beautiful, bright studio on the top floor of her home.

“Before this, we were renting, and I was making in a basement with no windows,” Huston said. “It was kind of moldy, and spidery, and terrible. So this feels like heaven.”

Tian Liu
Stained glass artworks are seen in artist, Brooke Huston’s studio on July 10, 2019. (Tian Liu/The Daily Iowan)

Her stained-glass artistry has turned into a small business called Mind and Mineral. Her passion for her art makes the stress of running a business by herself worth it.

“I’m a one-person team,” Huston said. “I’m the one who’s answering all the emails and doing the business end of things while also doing the fun part, which is the glass part. I’m not necessarily business-oriented so that’s one of the hardest parts.”

Reviews on Mind and Mineral’s online storefront make it apparent that customers are extremely happy with their purchases. One customer, Rebecca Brock, commissioned Huston to create a stained-glass portrait of a friend’s late cat.

“This was a gift for my friend whose cat died,” Brock said in a review on the site. “I’m so happy with how it turned out, looks just like him. My friend’s 3-year-old son recognized it as their cat immediately.”

Not only does Huston make money doing what she loves, she also finds the process to be stress-relieving. It is easy to see why — it’s relaxing just to watch her score a shape on a piece of glass and break it along the lines.

“It’s so therapeutic,” Huston said. “Something I actually learned about in sociology is something called flow. It’s where you get lost in an activity, and your brain kind of shuts off, and this really provides that for me.”

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Huston has long been inspired by nature, and it shows in her pieces. Her studio walls are covered in stained-glass hands, geodes, and cats, among other things.

Huston’s art is a refreshing departure from what one typically pictures when thinking of stained glass. Unlike the uniformity of traditional cathedral windows or the corniness of the stained glass hanging in a grandmother’s window, Huston’s art takes on a more whimsical nature.

“There’s definitely a trend of making it more stylish and toward a younger audience,” Huston said. “There’s definitely a huge community on Instagram of people doing cool, weird, witchy stuff. Everyone kind of has their own style, but I think that that is kind of a newer thing.”

Huston receives many commissions; her favorite requests are pet portraits. A pet owner herself, she really enjoys the challenge of artistically recreating people’s furry family members.

Tian Liu
Stained glass artist, Brooke Huston cuts a piece of glass in her studio on July 10, 2019. (Tian Liu/The Daily Iowan)

“Pet portraits are by far the best,” Huston said, “People have given me really interesting directives. I had a cat that was lying on a pile of money once, and I made that.”

Huston reflected upon her initial inspiration that came from a day of thrift-shopping years ago. She happened upon a small stained-glass piece and decided to buy it.

“I found this tooth thrifting, and I posted it on Instagram, and everyone was like, ‘Whoa, can I buy that tooth?’ ” Huston said. “That was years before I started, but that kind of started it.”

The tooth hangs above her worktable in her studio as a reminder of how far she’s come.