Jeanne-Sophie Neoyookaï – keeping alive and spicing up the stained glass art

There is something about stained glass art that creates an alluring feeling of magic, fascination and enchantment. It could be due to all those vivid colours interlacing, or due to the captivating art-making technique. One thing is certain though – stained glass art is steadily moving towards a new dawn.

During our VITA on Tour visit in Oslo, we had the chance to meet Jeanne-Sophie Neoyookaï, a talented stained glass artist that told us about this fascinating and uncommon art, and about the VITA Silvia lamp she painted and decorated in Norway for our project “Artists for a good cause”.

How did you become interested in glass as a “canvas” for your artwork?

I have always liked art crafts and, at one point, I realized that this is what I would like to do. I tried to work with fabric, but I didn’t like it that much. I tried ceramic, painting, drawing, but this wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Then I found a perfect glass school in France, and I went there. As soon as started working with glass, I knew that was what I wanted to work with. It’s a material that is both hard and easy to break. It’s an interesting process, and a “play” with light and paint – it just “talked” to me. Since then, I’ve been working only with glass.

Is stained glass art still a niche or is it becoming more popular?

There is a rather big movement towards people doing it as a hobby, and eventually some of them will bring it to the next level. The glass society is growing. There have been periods, some decades ago, when the activity was lower, but it got much better in the last years. There are a lot of glass centres in almost every country. It is a movement, but it’s a small world, a community by itself.

You like to experiment with mixed media, new glass techniques and to combine other materials as well. Can you tell us about your stained glass-making process?

It’s one of my specialties to use mixed media with glass. I use, for example, fabric between two glass layers. I’ve been also trying to put more 3D elements on top, to bring more depth and an organic feeling to the whole piece.

Are you currently having any exhibition?

Not at the moment. I had two exhibition this summer – one with another artist who is working with print and graphic. We had two very different visual styles that were fitting together, so it was really interesting to see the differences in materials. I had another exhibition together with the Gay Pride.

Can you tell us the story behind the artwork you made on the VITA Silvia lamp? What inspired you when decorating it?

Most of the people would think about it as being odd and fun. I just tried to think more of the object itself. I thought to put some kind of gradient and a piece of glass hanging – it felt natural.

For me it’s important to experiment new things with glass, all the time, and to try to spice it up all the time. In Norway, almost no one is doing stained glass anymore. It’s actually the number one dying craft in Norway, so I feel that I have to keep it alive and spice it up.

What you said about the glass as a material that you can shape but also break – I can see why this can “talk” to you.

Yes, it does. Sometimes you can work on a project and something that wasn’t in the plan could happen. Then you have to improvise and that’s when the things become interesting. I usually start with a basic design and then, when I am working, I allow to change it on the way. Sometimes I change a colour or maybe I use a different glass. In the end, I think it becomes natural to allow some space for… happenings.

Do you sometimes do two art pieces in case something happens with one of them?

I could, but that’s the boring part. I hate to do one thing twice, unless there is a real purpose. Sometimes I do this symmetrical work – like one of each, but they are the opposite of the symmetry and they maybe have different colours. I do it sometimes, but not always. I usually don’t enjoy to do one piece twice because that is all about – to bring a new piece.