Making art out of shards – Duluth News Tribune

MINONG — The sound of breaking glass doesn’t bother Kathleen Mertzig. When her favorite glass or light cover breaks, she sees it as an opportunity.

“Usually when you hear something break, it’s like, ‘Ah!'” Mertzig said. “It’s not such a big deal in this studio. I tell people if you break something valuable, bring it here and we can make something amazing out of it. You don’t have to cry over broken glass anymore.”

Artist Kathleen Mertzig’s (left) hands help move paint around on a canvas as she demonstrates her technique in her studio near Minong.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

An artwork of broken glass and poured paint by Kathleen Mertzig hangs in the Mertzig House

A piece of broken glass and poured paint by Kathleen Mertzig hangs in her home.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Mertzig takes broken and cut glass and sculpts it into spiders, lizards, turtles, motorbikes — pretty much anything you can imagine, in her garage art studio at her home in Minong.

It all started a few years ago when Mertzig realized she was tired of taking classes. Retired, Mertzig and her husband Dennis spent part of their year in Florida, where she had taken several glasswork courses and created some glass pieces that she liked. But she wanted to develop her own style and find out how she could achieve more.

“I got to the point where I thought, I know enough, I can do this on my own,” said Mertzig. “Also, they often have these classes where you can’t really do it on your own. You make part of it and the next day when you come back everything is perfect. So you don’t have to learn how to do it yourself.”

Mertzig turned to YouTube and gained a vast knowledge of the art of paint pouring. Using a combination of paint, Gac, Floetrol, WD-40 and a blowtorch, she has developed her own method to create unique backgrounds for her glassworks.

Kathleen Mertzig is reflected in the mirror alongside other of her works of art

Kathleen Mertzig is reflected in the mirror alongside other of her artworks on May 16th.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I haven’t seen a cast that I didn’t like. I like some more than others, but to be honest, they’re all unique and different enough from each other,” said Mertzig. “And it’s something anyone can do. I had some of my grandkids out here with me last weekend and we did that with the 3 year old.”

Once she’s set the background and dried well, it’s time to move on to the glass work. Mertzig has a collection of various vases, glasses, lights, broken glass, shells, and anything else she might have bought at a dollar store, flea market, or thrift store. The one thing she no longer needs is bottles of wine, as “people give me loads of them. I’m good at bottles of wine.”

Artist Kathleen Mertzig uses a torch to heat specific areas of the painting

Artist Kathleen Mertzig heats certain areas of a painting with a torch on May 16.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Sometimes the design for the piece is inspired by the shape of the glass object. She recently completed a bird piece that was inspired by the shape of the large glass basket she used to sculpt the bird’s structure.

“One of the greatest things for me is working fast. The quicker I finish, the more I like it,” said Mertzig. “I can’t sit with a piece for too long or I’ll start to dislike it.”
She also has her own art critic in the form of her husband Dennis. He often comes to the garage to visit her while she is working, to bring her a snack or a glass of wine, and to give his opinion on the play.

Kathleen Mertzig pours paint into a mug before pouring it onto a canvas

Kathleen Mertzig pours paint into a mug before pouring it onto a canvas.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“And I remember the first time I did it, she just cleared the board completely. I said, ‘Well, you didn’t have to destroy it!’ But she said she was looking for an excuse to get rid of it, so I just said what she was already thinking,” Dennis said. “If it doesn’t look good, I’ll tell her.

Mertzig often spends long days in the garage working on parts. She said it was her creative outlet.

“I have to do something creative to be happy,” said Mertzig. “I’ve always been like this. If not, I can’t take it. I need my artwork to get through life.”

When she’s not busy spending time with her 11 grandchildren or making artwork for herself or to give away to friends and family, Mertzig also teaches classes. She hosts one and two day art sessions in her garage and takes her classes on trips wherever people want to meet.

Glass is grouped by color in Kathleen Mertzig's studio

Glass is grouped by color in Kathleen Mertzig’s studio.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

If people want to learn how to both pour paint and do glasswork, she recommends two sessions to give the canvas enough time to dry. Mertzig is a retired special education teacher, so she says she really enjoys teaching people.

“Especially when it’s a group of ladies, they often come in a small group and maybe bring a bottle of wine. And when we’re done with the color portion, the wine bottle is empty and we use it for the next portion,” said Mertzig. “Then they put a bit of that afternoon into all of their plays and it’s just really special.”

For inquiries about artwork or courses, email Mertzig at

Artist Kathleen Mertzig holds a piece of motorcycle in her hand

Artist Kathleen Mertzig holds a piece of motorcycle she created for her plumber from broken glass.

Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

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