Through the looking glass
PUBLISHED: 15:43 24 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013
Far from proving the disaster she thought it was, when Juli Stone lost her job she found her dream career. She tells Nancy Cremore how she did it...
It was a big shock to be made redundant," says Juli Stone, whose career as sales manager of a large car dealership came to an abrupt end one day. "It was the only career I had ever known."
However, shortly afterwards, Juli found herself at the helm of her own business making beautiful stained glass pieces to commission, and teaching the art of stained glass window making, all from her own studio in Horsham.
"It sounds like I come from a completely un-artistic background," says Juli, of her previous career. "But in fact this isn't true. I've always enjoyed art and painting in particular, but it was something I chose not to do when I was younger because I thought there was no future in it."
This all changed, when, in the aftermath of losing her job, Juli accompanied her mother to the studio of a stained glass artist, where she was having a commission designed. "When I saw them working away in their workshop something clicked in me and I immediately knew this was what I wanted to do," she says. "I went straight out and bought a glass cutter and just went for it!"
Juli is completely self-taught, and admits she had to learn through trial and error. "It's easy if you know how," says Juli, "I tell my students that glass is liquid, hard but soft inside. You have to score it to break the surface tension, but if you score it too deeply you shock the glass rather than tease it open, which results in fracturing, so a light pressure is best."
Juli started out, like most budding artists, working from her dining room table, taking part in the odd craft fair and commission, but she says: "I was frustrated that it was so hard to get hold of the right tools and materials. There's no real market for stained glass in this country - it's thought of as a bit unfashionable." Juli's response was to open up her own studio and go into the supply side of the business as well to ensure that she always had the right materials to hand.
This allows her time for what she loves best: teaching and creating. "The most interesting job I've had so far was when I received a phone call out of the blue from a man in St. Lucia," Juli explains. "He wanted to come over and learn how to make stained glass as they had a church in Castries which they were restoring and they wanted to make the stained glass windows for it.
"He said he'd come over for the week but ended up staying for three. My plan originally was just to teach him as much as I could, but he arrived with full-sized drawings painted by his father, so we roped in some of my other students and in three weeks I had made 12 windows with him." She went on: "He went back with the panels and enough supplies to make another 30-odd, which he did with some guidance over the phone from me!"
Although Juli hasn't been out to St Lucia yet she says the invitation is there and she's just waiting for some free time. "I desperately wanted to go out and help him with the rest of the windows, but at the end of the day this is a business with no time for luxuries such as holidays!"
Juli Stone, Spellcast studio, Horsham
01403 248123 / www.spellcast-studio.co.uk