Maria Orr has been painting on glass for 24 years. She worked at a stained glass shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 8 years. While there she attended several workshops by Dick Millard, where she honed her skill, and where Orr met several others that had the same love and passion for painting on glass.
In 2010, she designed and painted nine entrances to the Catholic Church she attended since she was two years old. It was ten months of working nights and weekends, as she had taken a different job doing graphic design, but still did side work for the shop she had previously worked for. It was a great accomplishment for Orr. She says she was really proud of all the work she had put into those windows. But then two years later, on July 1, 2012, a day after fireworks became legal in Michigan, someone was lighting fireworks behind the church and they landed on the roof, smoldered, and then burned the church down. Four out of the nine entrances survived, though they were somewhat damaged. The church was rebuilt differently, and thus new window designs were created and she spent many more nights and weekends painting. Just a month ago the windows that survived the fire were hung once again, but this time in the new offices in the new church building.
Another fun project was one she collaborated on with Kolenda Art Glass. The city of Grand Rapids has an annual art competition called ArtPrize, which one year was hosted at the Founders Brewing Company in town. Orr collaborated on a piece called “Ninkasi.” After the competition Founders purchased the stained glass, and now houses it permanently at their location in Grand Rapids. The best part is that the following year they made a beer called Mosaic Promise based on the art, and the image is on the beer label!
Even though she does graphic design for her day job now, Orr couldn’t give up her love for painting on glass, and she makes sure to take a painting class every now and again. Orr says she loves learning new techniques, and cherishes the things she learns and the people she meets. The incredible painters she has met over the years always keeps her inspired to do more.