As liturgical music fills your ears you sit and observe. Your personal light show begins in the church — you see a flash of color here and another spot of color there. The colors and the light frame the church and the people, going from the entrance at the beginning, to majestically illuminate the altar by the end of service.
This is how stained-glass artist and sculptor Veronica Alegre Gutierrez found her passion.
“When I was 4 or 5 years old, we had luncheons every Sunday at my grandparents’ house and went to their neighborhood church. I was fascinated by the colorful light that came from the big stained-glass windows from floor to ceiling on both sides of the church,” she said. “Since then, the color and light through glass has been my passion and I developed an interest in learning the different techniques to create pieces of art.”
Gutierrez was born and raised in Lima, Peru. In 1984, before starting art school, she learned to make stained glass. She met a master artist who was willing to teach her the “Tiffany technique,” which uses copper foil. She pursued her art studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
Gutierrez loves to work on three-dimensional projects. She loves working with different materials like wood, clay, metal, stone and fiberglass. While studying she started to get commission work and started her business. She learned the antique lead came technique and how to restore historical pieces. Gutierrez took classes on architectural stained glass, designing the metal structure on a big scale with the famous Austrian painter, stained glass artist, the founder and dean of her college, Adolph Winternitz. He happened to be the one who made the windows at her grandparents’ neighborhood church. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in visual arts specializing in sculpture.
“In 1999, my husband and I decided to move to the U.S. leaving our country for good after facing political and socio-economic problems. In 2000, we moved to Key Largo and started a new chapter in our lives,” she said. “I opened my art studio in 2002 in Key Largo and moved to Tavernier in 2014.
“Here in the Florida Keys, most of the designs are tropical and there is so much inspiration just by observing our surroundings and being one with nature,” she continued. “The color of the water, the landscapes, sunrises, sunsets, the endless variety of birds, fish and flowers are such rich resources that there is always something inspiring to create. “
Here in the Keys, we are lucky to have an outstanding artist like Gutierrez, who sees the world in a different and beautiful way. When you meet her, the first thing that stands out is her warmth and humility. Here you have this talented artist, but you wouldn’t know it until she starts to talk about art. I don’t know much about the stained-glass process, so I asked her about her work.
“First you need to establish a relationship with the customer to interpret what they envision. It’s very important to listen very carefully and deeply to the customer, ask all the questions and present all the possibilities,” she said. “It’s also very important to go to the place where the big scale window will be installed to observe what kind of light is coming through (cold, warm, direct, indirect, etc.).
“Something that people don’t know is that this process takes a lot of time before the design is even sketched, but it’s so necessary,” she continued. “I haven’t had any rejections and all my designs have been approved, which gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.”
The first stage is the creating time and pre-production phase. Then, the design is ready for enlargement to the real dimensions and the process of cutting the glass starts. “The part of the process that I like the most is picking up the glass for the project according to color, texture and transparency, which best suits the design,” she said. The foiling and soldering stages have many steps and take some time until the final piece is finished. Gutierrez’s favorite piece is “Conch Venus,” which has become her signature sculpture cast in bronze.
Gutierrez has taught in schools for 14 years, from elementary to advanced placement classes.
Her work is at Our Place in Paradise Studio and Gallery, MM 88 and at the Art League at Ocean Reef. She is a member of the Purple Isles Art Guild and Florida Keys Council of Arts. You can find her at Veronica’s Art and Glass Studio on Plantation Key at 88711 Overseas Highway.