...back in the early 90's when I had only been doing glass for a few years, I knew that I wanted to do a Harley-Davidson stained glass piece.
It was a difficult time in my life, where I struggled daily with physical abuse from my ex-husband, and each day was just so hard. The emotional abuse was as bad as the physical abuse; I wasn't allowed to have any friends and was always alone. He was such a sick bastard that he would literally take the phone, radio and tv with him when he went to work so that I would be in silence all day. Over the years I actually got used to that silence and found a certain peace in it. For many years this went on, until I happened to find stained glass over thirty years ago in 1989. That's another story for another time but it is the one time, that no matter how much he beat me I refused to quit. He did everything he could do to force me to stop. All I knew was that I had found what I'd been searching for my entire life. And, I knew my glass would save me, and it did.
I had always admired Harley-Davidson and bikers because to me they represented a life that was true; a life that had purpose and the freedom to be who we were without fear. I respected that so much.
I was so beaten down that actually going out and interacting with others was very hard to do and pretty scary. But, I desperately wanted to try to draw a motorcycle that I could do in glass. So, with my ex at work, and my kids at school, I started going to the Harley-Davidson dealership in Homewood, Illinois, to sketch the bikes. I would sit there for hours sketching the motorcycles; seeing in my mind how I could cut the pieces in glass as I drew. I was particularly fascinated with the Indian motorcycles. And ultimately that was what I chose to make. For the silver chrome I used front surface mirror; cutting both the back and front pieces so that it would be mirrored on both sides. The chrome alone was 192 pieces of glass.
I made the piece so big that it was wider than the apartment windows. Seeing it finished for the first time was absolutely thrilling. From the very first day it was up in the window, people started knocking on my door to ask about it. My ex was furious. After less than a week he took it down, set it on the floor and said he would destroy it if I put it up again. He had destroyed a lot of my work thru the years so I definitely believed him.
There it sat for a long time, until one day I came home to an apartment that had been burglarized. This piece, along with many many other pieces, was taken. And, yes, I always thought my ex had something to do with the burglary. It was devastating but I knew I had overcome a lot to create these pieces and that was comforting and gave me hope that one day I could leave this never ending nightmare.
These are the only pictures I have of my Indian motorcycle.
The Harley-Davidson logo with flames...
Still completely enthralled with any and all things Harley-Davidson, I decided to recreate the logo with flames. This was before computers so I drew it by hand from looking at a decal. The flames were easy because as long as you made them symmetrical on both sides it would work and look right. The letters were the toughest part and as you can see they're not perfect.
As a way to challenge myself I did the background with a black and clear Spectrum baroque in a continuous flow. Looks amazing as long as you cut every single piece of background glass perfectly. If a piece breaks, then the whole background has to be thrown away.
This was the first one:
It too was stolen in the burglary; along with the first white tiger I made. Always vowed I'd make both pieces again and I did, many years later. 🧡
To those who have wondered why I would have stayed in such an abusive relationship for so many years... Kicked out as a teenager, in 1977, I ended up in Texas, and promptly got pregnant by someone who was awful to me before we ever married. I had three children in three years all before I was 21. Back then, they didn't have women's shelters. There wasn't any help available.
Nowadays the police can arrest someone if they see bruises on the victim but it wasn't like that in the 70's and 80's. I tried leaving him when my children were 2, 3 and 4. He promptly quit his job and the judge said he couldn't order any child support. After over a year of always working two and three jobs, I still could hardly afford food or housing. In defeat, I went back to him figuring at least my children would have a roof over their head. Huge, huge mistake and one of my biggest life regrets.
It was actually my kids, all grown up, who sat me down and said, "Mom, it's time to leave..." And I did, back in 2001, and started a new life. I'm now happily remarried to a wonderful man. And I'm very grateful to my children, my husband, and for the gift of having glass in my life.
Thank you for sharing! My love of stained glass also saved my life. The day I left my ex (after he beat me so bad I needed my stomach reconstructed) was the first day of my new life!
After being told he threw out my complete studio I built over 20 years I was devastated. The small community of stained glass artists in our town helped me get the tools and scrap glass and even a grinder was gifted to me! I started all over again and now am bigger and better than I was before! My first piece was the word “hope” that is in purple for domestic violence awareness and hangs in the intake office at the shelter I stayed at so every woman that walks in the doors has a glimmer of hope.
I love your Harley sign with the flames. That’s inspired me to do something today Harley related!
Nancy,I am so glad that your love for glass helped you build the strength to leave that nightmarish situation. That you were able to find an escape through following your passion while continuing to endure such a heinous situation. Love you always. Patty
I remember in HS I was envious yet proud of you my friend for being so artistic. You told me then you would enjoy your life creating beautiful things, but you didn’t know what it was to be yet. And you’ve done just that with your majistic creations of glass. I’d love to see you next trip to MO.Love&Peace
Nancy, thank you so much for sharing such a personal story, I pray that anyone reading would have the courage as you did to leave a bad situation. Thank you so much for your perseverance in doing glass as you are a great artist and a wonderful person. I am also glad that you found a man who is loving and supports your love for glass.
Oh my….and here I thought my past experiences with an abusive husband was bad! You are one strong lady and your stained glass is outstanding. I’m typing this with tears and wishing you all the good the world has to offer.