Up Close & Personal with Makeover Burien’s 1st Prospect: Glass Expressions

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Lael Smidt Bennett and Kathy Johnson of Glass Expressions.

Story & Photos by Janet Grella

Meet Kathy Johnson and Lael Smidt Bennett, two life-long area artists, totally devoted to the art of working in glass – they are Glass Expressions. Well, they and the award-winning artists they’ve trained over the years.

Glass Expressions is more than a working studio where over 1500 students have studied glass making for over past 25 years, it houses a beautiful and somewhat unique gift shop. There-in lies the challenge for Makeover Burien group. They will need to keep the look and feeling of a working studio, while re-organizing the the retail store operation. Kathy and Lael would also like more people to know about their business, which has always been a challenge for the store.

Horse-trading in Burien: A horse is a horse of course of course unless you sell him to buy a business!

That’s exactly what Kathy Johnson of Glass Expressions did back in 1983.

New student Larry works on his first stained glass project.

Kathy is the founder of Glass Expressions. In 1979 she went to work with Bob at Stain Glass Art and Supply located in Burien. As an artist she loved the environment and artistic challenges of working in glass. She helped him move the store from the location on Ambaum to the next location where 909 Restaurant in Olde Burien is located–and then bought the business in 1983. She subsequently moved down the street to their current location at 648 SW 152nd St. Since her start in the glass biz, Kathy has become an internationally recognized bead making artist.

Flash forward a few years (1993) and you’ll find Lael’s then-boyfriend (and now husband) suggesting they take a stained glass making class from Kathy at Glass Expressions. Half-way through the class, Kathy’s partner announced he was quitting and wanted to sell his part of the business. Lael and her boyfriend decided on the spot that she would buy in. Leaving her job at Boeing, Lael joined Kathy in her enterprise.

“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, that’s for sure,” said Kathy.

Glass Expressions is the only glass studio in King County that also has a retail storefront. There you will find an assortment of jewelry, decorative accessories for the home and just some fun stuff you’ll not see anywhere else. Of course, merchandised is all Expressed in Glass. They are also the only glass studio in Central and South King County. Their students come as far away as Anacortes and Maple Valley as well as local artists in South King County.

Lael helps Larry on his stained glass project.

Classes and Workshops: Glass Expressions offers stained glass classes for eight weeks for $175 and $200 for tools and supplies. This includes unlimited time in their workshop with hands-on guidance included. They have also started workshops in glass beadmaking which is Kathy’s expertise and glass fusing from Lael. Check out their website in about a week for information on these and other classes and workshops.

Larry, a new student gave an unsolicited testimonial about Kathy and Lael’s method of instruction–“They will not let you get by with shortcuts!”

We’ll have more on the rejuvenation of long-time Burien business Glass Expressions, so keep on reading BTB to keep up with Makeover Burien’s progress to “makeover Burien one store at a time.”

As part of the total make-over project Kathy and Lael will receive a day of beauty and a makeover from Serenza Salon & Spa, complimentary teeth whitening from Dr. Jim Coleman, and free publicity on South King Media (The B-Town Blog and its five sister sites).

If you own a business that could benefit from a makeover, or shop at a business you’d like to see made over, please contact Makeover Burien for consideration: [email protected]. More info available at www.makeoverburien.com.

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