Spokane Journal of Business

Reflections Stained Glass: A cut above


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-—Kevin Blocker
Reflections Stained Glass owner Susan Kim

Susan Kim began designing and cutting stained glass a little more than three decades ago and hasn’t stopped yet.

Kim, the owner of Reflections Stained Glass LLC, at 9405 E. Sprague in Spokane Valley, has completed work across Spokane, with many of her pieces located in churches and cathedrals.

The business generates revenue via her commissioned works, retail sales of stained glass, and classes she teaches at the shop. Kim declines to reveal her annual revenue, however, she says the business is far from lucrative.

Before the Great Recession, to the best of Kim’s knowledge, there were four stained-glass shops operating between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. She now only knows of her shop and another retailer in Coeur d’Alene.

The most visible examples of her work on display before the general public are located at the Davenport Hotel Collection in downtown Spokane.

She cut and designed the stained-glass depiction of the Monroe Street Bridge near the lobby of the Davenport Grand Hotel, at 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. The work, which hangs on the wall, is 8 feet tall and 20 feet long.

At the Davenport Tower, at 111 S. Post, an image of a pair of stained-glass tigers that’s 5 feet by 8 feet hangs behind the front desk.

Across the lobby from the tigers is a mural of 17 roaming giraffes in a progressional gallop across the savannah. That 4-foot-high, 30-foot-long piece serves as a barrier between the main lobby and the hotel bar and restaurant, called the Safari Room.

And across the street at the historic Davenport Hotel at 10 S. Post, on the ceiling above the bar in the hotel’s Peacock Room lounge, is the largest work to date of Kim’s career, a 12 foot by 28-foot design that holds 6,000 pieces of stained glass centered around a peacock, she says.

Despite a bachelor’s degree in art from Whitworth University she earned in 1989, the 50-year-old Kim says she doesn’t have a lot of specialized training in designing and cutting stained glass.

“I only ever took two stained glass classes, but I guess it was just my thing,” Kim says.

However, Walter “Spike” Grosvenor, the founder of Whitworth’s stained-glass program, has served as Kim’s mentor since she first attended his class in college.

Kim currently has one part-time employee, however, for major projects, she says she has a “network of other artists and associates” to call on.

She’s calling on them now as she projects 2018 will be a busy year. Grosvenor has designed a work for Millwood Presbyterian Church, at 3223 N. Marguerite Road, for which Kim is serving as a sort of artistic general contractor.

“I’ve already been purchasing supplies for the job, and it will be the biggest single piece in my career when we’re done,” she says.

Kim is in the process of finalizing her own designs for Holy Cross Lutheran Church, at 7307 N. Nevada, for which she hopes to start work next month, as well as at Zion Lutheran Church, in Davenport, Wash., later in 2018. The three projects most likely will take all of 2018 to finish.

For example, for the Peacock Room, Kim says she worked on average between 12 to 16 hours a day for 100 straight days.

She credits the Peacock Room effort with her collaborators and fellow artists as the work that began to draw serious attention her way.

“I was young when I first started in the public business and not a lot of people took me seriously. I believe that the Peacock gave me some recognition and respect,” she says.

In addition to the Peacock Room, Kim and other artists helped restore the 22 windows that circle the historic Davenport Hotel.

Kim’s passion for stained-glass art started when she was 17, when her brother asked her to help him on a Christmas project he was putting together for their parents. Her brother had also taken a class from Grosvenor, she says.

After graduating from Whitworth, Kim moved briefly to Southern California and worked in a stained glass art studio named Glass Horizons. She returned to Spokane and worked at Rainbow Stained Glass from 1991 to 1994 before the owner closed that Spokane Valley business.

In 1998, Kim purchased Gallery of Glass from its owners who were preparing to retire and she changed the business name to Reflections.

“My dad, older brother, and younger sister all took out loans on their homes to support my opportunity,” she says. “Based on the numbers, I planned to pay them all back in five years. I’m proud to say I paid them back in 3 ½ years.”

Her sons Nicholas Kim, 26, and Thomas Kim, 23, each started cutting glass when they were 8 years old, and Kim says they’re both qualified to run the shop.

Kim says she never aspired to get rich as an artist.

“I need a new water heater and a new car right now,” she says. “I’m still in business because I can hold my breath long enough and have a passion for what I do.”

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