This article is brought to you by the Door County Visitor Bureau.
Walking into the bright, glass-walled Sturgeon Bay studio of Jeremy Popelka and Stephanie Trenchard, visitors are greeted by Jeremy, who is taking a break from blowing his colorful glasswork. The shop and studio of Popelka Trenchard Glass, located in the heart of Sturgeon Bay, is one large space divided only by an open doorway. Visitors get a firsthand look at the tools, process, and impressive furnace that create the glassworks of this Door County couple.
Popelka and Trenchard moved to Door County 16 years ago, drawn, like many artists, by the low cost of living, affordability of studio space, and the family-friendly qualities of the community. “We came here from the Bay area when our kids were three and five years old,” says Trenchard, “now they’re both in college.” During those years, Popelka Trenchard Glass has become a mainstay of the Peninsula art scene.
Jeremy received his MFA working in glass, and Stephanie is a painter by training. “When we moved here and started the studio, I said to Stephanie ‘I don’t think I can do a studio of glasswork on my own.’ We started collaborating on glass, and soon Stephanie developed her signature fruit castings,” says Popelka of his wife. “She has now established herself nationally as an interesting, unique glass artist,” he adds proudly.
Stephanie’s cast glass sculptures are unique, beguiling little worlds: fruit, flowers, and human figures are cast and encased in glass, giving the work the combined effect of a paperweight, diorama, and kaleidoscope. Popelka’s pieces, including his highly sought-after light fixtures and vases, are more abstract, and feature his signature swirls of color and outstanding craftsmanship. In addition to their own studio creations, the couple does commission work, and were recently invited to create some custom pieces for the multi-million dollar yacht built by Palmer Johnson, Inc. In their studio were also a set of charming glass animal figurines, which the couple plan to donate to Third Avenue Playhouse for their production of The Glass Menagerie. “After the show, they’ll auction them off as a fundraiser,” explains Popelka.
Although Stephanie is now a sought-after glass artist, she hasn’t abandoned her painting career—far from it. Her large colorful works, which feature both landscapes and abstract works , adorn the walls of the gallery, and are also the permanent installation at Sturgeon Bay’s trendiest new restaurant, 136. The colors and forms on her canvasses inform her glass work, which have a painterly sense of light, translucent color and composition.
Popelka and Trenchard once traveled extensively to participate in the top American craft shows, but now have national gallery representation, including the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, so they are able to stay closer to home and spend their time creating.
“People who come into the gallery are surprised at the diversity of work created by just two artists,” says Popelka. “And they enjoy being able to come into the gallery and actually get a taste of how the process works. The work here is only a few feet away from where it was born.”
Popelka Trenchard Glass offers Saturday firing demonstrations throughout the summer. They also teach private and small group glassblowing classes by arrangement. For more information, follow them on Facebook or call (920) 743-7287. For additional info on the vast world of arts and culture of Door County visit DoorCounty.com/arts.