Stained glass is often associated with the windows of churches and cathedrals, so the last thing that they’d remind people of is traditional tattoos. Through the right eyes, though, the similarity between these disparate art forms is plain as day. Gina Ferrara illustrates how the two mediums are aesthetically related by translating designs by tattooists into beautiful glasswork. The soldering in her pieces resembles bold line work, and the vibrant panes she uses look just like the color palettes in body art. When sunlight shines through her creations, they glow with warmth, giving the tattoo imagery they’re based on an divine aura.
Though Ferrara has been an admirer of the arts and a tattoo collector for a long time, she only started learning to make stained glass over the last decade. “Not too long after I first started using Instagram about 6 years ago, I started to follow this incredible stained glass artist out of Brooklyn named Twiggy Levy,” says Ferrara. “She had posted one day about needing an intern to help with her website so I emailed her on a whim. I loved her work and wanted more than anything to learn a craft.”
“Drawing patterns is a meditation for me. I've always loved mandalas and sacred geometry, as well as Catholic iconography. I'll sit at my drafting table and draw and redraw pieces until the pattern is perfect,” Ferrara explains. “There are so many ways a pattern can go wrong — whether the glass pieces end up being too difficult to cut or the piece is not stable once it is finished. The pattern is so important.”
Aside from from creating her own designs, Ferrara has collaborated with tattooists to transform their compositions into glasswork. Some of the pieces that she’s produced are even based on body art that she received from them.
Working with various tattooists not only inspires Ferrara, it helps her push her style in new directions. “Sheila [Marcello] is such an amazing artist, and was so quick to understand the basics of how a pattern should be designed for stability and beauty,” Ferrara explains. “She has drawn me so many great patterns. My favorite is the giant tiger that hangs in her dining room. What's special about Sheila is her perfect color choices. She pushes the envelope, and I'm able to use some really incredible iridescent glass to try to capture the feeling of her tattoos.”
Collaboration also forces Ferrara to experiment with a variety of motifs, ranging from classic iconography like roses and reapers to more elaborate folk art designs. “I was commissioned by Mario Desa to recreate one of his amazing folk birds in glass,” Ferrara recounts. “It translated almost too easily into the medium, and I loved making it. While I love drawing my own patterns, it's really incredible to see someone else's work come to life.”
Ferrara plans on conspiring with more tattooists in the future to keep honing her craft. She’s ambitious about her art, and only wants to make it bigger and better. “I would love to create more large-scale pieces and push the boundaries of my work. I am developing my own style as I go and try not to do the same thing twice. At the moment I'm trying to finish up some personal projects, like this giant Immaculate Heart of Mary,” says Ferrara. “I love trading other artists for glass. I love giving glass as a gift. I just love to focus on making things for the people I love, and I never keep any pieces for myself.”
To bask in the glory of more of Ferrara’s tattoo-inspired pieces of stained glass, visit her Instagram. If you’d like to purchase some of her glasswork or even commission a custom piece, here’s the link to her website.