Heart of Glass: Getting to Know Meggy Wilm, Colorado’s Viral Stained Glass Artist
“Social media is a mixed bag when it comes to self-publicity, but I’ve found that people are connected to me as the artist.”
The Colorado Glassworks storefront sits in the heart of Boulder’s bustling Pearl Street shopping district. Within a span of just a few minutes, there are at least five instances of a double-take from someone walking down the street — it seems the kaleidoscope of colors emulating from the stained glass window display catches people’s attention. Among the many stained glass pieces hanging in the window, there are teeth, crocodiles, and even an artistic interpretation of Marie Antionette. Meggy Wilm, the artistic brain behind Colorado Glassworks, watches the passersby admire her work with a content smile on her face as she situates herself on the store’s welcoming velvet couch.
Wilm’s art speaks for itself — the artist is currently one of the most followed stained glass artists online — but it’s when a fan of hers from social media stops by her shop, it is made clear why Colorado Glassworks stands out among the rest. “Her pieces are just absolutely stunning,” said Jennifer, a long-time follower of Wilm’s Instagram page who came from Dayton, Ohio to see her work in person. “Watching her do her art is just amazing, and she just seems so kind.” Wilm offers to make her midwestern fan a one-of-a-kind necklace, with a piece of glass that Jennifer picks out herself. As they exit the shop, Wilm smiles and returns to the velvet couch. “Someone who lives in San Francisco came in yesterday and did almost the same thing,” Wilm said. “It’s so special.”
Piece By Piece
Becoming a viral stained glass artist didn’t happen overnight. Wilm, who chose to return to her home state of Colorado after a stint in southern California, started her journey with glass because of a community center class she took on a whim. Being too broke to take another class, Wilm decided to continue teaching herself at home. “I think a misconception about stained glass is that you need all these tools to do it,” Wilm said. “Nothing is particularly hard about doing it and you don’t even need a ton of fancy tools. It just takes a lot of practice.”
The majority of WIlm’s business is e-commerce, with fans rushing her online store once she drops a seasonal collection. With the luxury of a studio space, Wilm has also started taking on larger commission projects, fulfilling roughly five custom orders per month. She’s currently booked out for the rest of the year, and that’s even considering the fact that she has four part-time assistants in her shop.
“My shop specializes in selling a lot of rare, hard to find glass, because I want other people like myself to have access to really cool glass,” Wilm said. “Because a lot of times it's not just the subject that's inspiring you, it's the texture and the color of the glass.”
Thanks to her studio space, Wilm has a platform to be a teacher as well. Her shop hosts beginner classes for those interested in stained glass, and also gives her space to work on larger custom pieces. As of now, a 400-piece peacock-clad stained glass window is underway.
A Cut Above The Rest
Human-made glass can be traced as far back as 2750 B.C., and the art of stained glass has been present in fields like architecture and religion for centuries. For Wilm, a self-proclaimed fan of history, being a part of that lineage means bringing a modern spin to an artistic medium that isn’t exactly trending right now.
“Glass had a heyday in the 1970s and 80s,” Wilm said. “The people who were doing it back then are retiring now, though. Glass manufacturers are producing less glass and people aren’t being as risky.”
Realizing the decline within the industry, Wilm decided to think outside the box. Enter Tyler Kimball, owner and operator of Monarch Glass Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. Kimball and Wilm’s collaboration was a product of Wilm’s mission to find unique sheet glass for her products.
“I emailed probably 30 or 40 people, asking them if they could blow me custom sheet glass,” Wilm said. “When I finally found Tyler, I drove to his studio in Kansas City and he blew me custom sheet glass.”
When Wilm came to the studio to design her own sheet glass, Kimball says his initial instincts about her stand true to this day, and he’s not surprised that Colorado Glassworks has reached the level of success that it has.
“People who have direction and cause are people I gravitate towards and trust to work with,” Kimball said. “I'm proud to supply Meggy and her community glass that is full of life.”
Kimball’s love for the craft of glass translates well to Wilm’s intricate designs, and the pair have found a rhythm of creativity that fosters both of their careers. While glass blowing is arguably one of the most physical taxing and dangerous forms of art, Kimball says it’s never a question to walk away from it — and there are plenty of reasons he’ll never leave.
“When light pours through a stained glass panel with my blown glass in it, it takes my breath away,” Kimball said. “It makes life pause.”
According to Wilm, she is the only stained glass artist who is currently working with custom-blown sheet glass. Wilm has an instinct to innovate and stand out among her colleagues — similarly to the artist she considers a primary inspiration, Louis C. Tiffany. Tiffany was responsible for creating a new standard and method for stained glass during the 19th century.
“The desire to be creative and come up with new ideas is why I feel connected to Tiffany, because I want to keep exploring, shaping and changing the material in the industry,” Wilm said. “Maybe I can be part of this innovation of new material, the stuff people want to use and see in stained glass.”
Art In The Era of Likes and Shares
According to a recent study, a reported 71% of surveyed art buyers found art via Instagram over any other social media platform. Wilm herself isn’t an avid user of social media, but recognized it as a business tool. Her original goal was to hit 10,000 followers, which took over two years and involved things like free art giveaways and a lot of commitment.
Without paying for ads (a way that can quickly boost a person’s follower count on social media), Wilm was able to hit 10,000 followers.
“The thing with Instagram that I felt really proud of is I never posted my face up until I went past 10,000 followers, because I wanted my art to be the thing that people cared about, and not the person selling the art,” Wilm said. “I think as a young woman, sometimes I feel like there are other factors that play into my success. But I got here with my talent.”
As her notoriety has grown, Wilm has started to show her face more. Based on the amount of fans coming to Boulder specifically to see her, that strategy seems to be paying off.
“Social media is a mixed bag when it comes to self-publicity, but I’ve found that people are connected to me as the artist,” WIlm said.
A recent study showed that 44% of internet users engage with video content every month, a trend that Wilm is very aware of with the rise of things like TikTok and YouTube Shorts. While there are plenty of people buying her content, Wilm thinks that most people actually enjoy watching it more than anything else.
“Art has become entertainment now,” Wilm said. “People enjoy seeing my finished pieces, but I can almost say they probably enjoy watching the creation process, if not more.”
In order to stay grounded among the sea of e-commerce, Wilm makes sure to stay true to herself and her values through philanthropy. Raising more than $14,000 in 2021 alone, Colorado Glassworks gives 10% of their proceeds back to charities that support the environment.
“Giving back binds my love of art and nature, and it feels good to know all this work is going toward a greater cause,” Wilm said. “I like being outdoors in Colorado, so I wanted to make sure some of my work was going back to what I love.”
Wilm’s success has allowed her to expand her business, and she is excited to bring the stained glass scene to Colorado. For those who are wanting to embark on a creative endeavor of their own, Wilm believes it’s all about the effort you put into it and not whether or not you have a special skill or interest.
“Anyone can do it,” Wilm said. “You just have to be consistent and persevere, even in the high and the low times. But if I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Wilm’s warm demeanor is only paralleled by the comfort and confidence that she exhibits while existing inside her kingdom of glass, with shards of intricately stained glass scattered around her and a pleasant hum of productivity and hard work.
Perhaps this genuine love for not only the craft of stained glass, but also the genuine desire to connect with people through art, is what causes people to flock to Colorado Glassworks. Maybe the historically superficial facade of social media success is no match for a genuinely authentic and talented artist.