Maskew finds stained glass 'soul mate'

Karen Maskew, Pieces of Me Stained Glass owner and creator, works on a butterfly in her home workshop.

Karen Maskew, Pieces of Me Stained Glass owner and creator, found a passion for stained glass through unlikely circumstances.

About seven years ago, Maskew’s life was uprooted from East Tennessee when her husband took a job in Florida. The move was hard on Maskew and caused severe depression.

“When I got to Florida, by six months after I was down there, it was like, ‘OK, now what do I do?’ I have no family,” Maskew said. “I got into therapy with a great therapist, and he said, ‘You need to find things.’ I took jewelry. I took guitar. I happened upon stained glass, and of those three, I picked the stained glass. The guy that I took my classes from actually closed down. He retired and got out of the business right after I got through with my classes.”

Around the same time Maskew’s teacher retired, her husband found a new job in Kentucky. Maskew wasn’t sure her new hobby would translate to a new state.

“I just took classes in Florida,” Maskew said. “I didn’t think about ever doing anything past that. When I got to Kentucky, it was a big difference from Florida because we were in a retirement place, and there was always stuff to do. In Kentucky, there was nothing to do. I thought, ‘I have to do something.’ I’m just going to get my stuff and start piddling.”

Maskew started selling her stained glass pieces through Facebook. She quickly realized her art was appreciated by others.

“It turned into something I could not have even imagined,” she said. “From Kentucky, I came here, and once I started it, I once told my husband I found my soul mate. I never dreamed it would be made of glass. It has given me so much, and I told him, ‘It’s a shame that there’s not more art in school’.”

Maskew was diagnosed with dyslexia later in life. She used to think she was “stupid in school” and hopes art programs continue for children with the same learning impairment and artistic mind.

During her stained glass journey, Maskew has learned about herself and her emotions.

“It’s taught me so much,” she said. “Patience where I needed patience. Acceptance. Accept it for what it is. Finish it even though you think it’s not sellable or lovable, go ahead and finish it. It helped me. It’s revealed a lot about my emotions — my frustration, my impatience, my non-acceptance. I never dreamed that art could have done that.”

Maskew said she’s been seeking peace her whole life and found it in art.

“Hence Pieces of Me,” she said. “You can throw off so many pieces of me. Each piece is of me, a little bit of acceptance, a little bit of patience.”

A resident of Tellico Village for two years, Maskew has made some connections.

One of those, Sandy Stalnaker, Nurtured by Nature owner, recently began displaying Maskew’s artwork for sale at her store.

Stalnaker stumbled across Maskew’s Facebook page last fall and “fell in love with her pieces,” she said. In November, she was the winner of one of Maskew’s monthly giveaways on Facebook. After receiving the handmade ornament, Stalnaker ordered more because she was astounded by the craftsmanship.

“On occasion I noticed comments made to Karen’s Facebook posts by locals wishing for a place to see her beautiful work,” Stalnaker said in an email correspondence. “I’ve always had a great appreciation for anything handcrafted, especially finer things, and had seriously considered supporting and showcasing quality work from local artisans in my shop.”

She said the collaboration has been “wonderful” for both women.

“The presence of art, music and other cultural events speaks to the health and strength of a community,” Stalnaker said. “It encourages local shopping, attracts tourism, and money spent stays in the community and fosters growth. The brightest and best small towns actively support their artisans and have a strong cultural identity. This is my wish for Loudon. And Karen’s art is a bright addition toward making downtown an even better place to visit, explore and shop.”