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Desire to create something unique led Brenna Rich to create art from stained glass

Brenna Rich stands in front of foliage on the BYUH campus

After applying to BYU–Hawaii on a whim, Brenna Rich said everything just fell into place for her to come to school in Laie. Since then, she said a determination to create something unique led her to start making art out of stained glass.

“I always loved stained glass, just looking at it, but I never thought it was something I would do,” said Rich. “Then I started researching it and saw people were doing modern designs with it instead of huge windows. I decided to get all the supplies and try it out. I loved it. I'm starting to sell it.”

Life at BYUH

After getting an associate's degree in art, Rich, a senior majoring in graphic design from Utah, said she had always been planning to leave the school. “It was my plan in the first place to come out here and get my associates and decide what I wanted to do for sure. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. I decided to take a semester off.”

What drew her back, she explained, was “how much I missed it. I didn’t think I would miss it that much. Once I wasn’t here, all I wanted to do was go back.”

Rich said she decided to major in graphic design because, “I always knew I wanted to do something with art. I also wanted to be able to incorporate marketing. I felt like graphic design was the best way to do that. My minor is in marketing, so I feel like they kind of go hand in hand with each other.”

Whitney Hungerford, a senior majoring in graphic design from Oregon, said she first met Rich when she applied for a job at Hukilau Marketplace. “Brenna and I have a lot of mutual friends, but we actually met when she applied to be a graphic designer at my work, [the Hukilau Marketplace]. We interviewed a lot of students for the position, but everyone in our department agreed Brenna was the best fit. We hired her, and she and I actually became really good friends.”

Hungerford said Rich’s graphic design work, both for work and school, is extremely versatile and filled with passion. She explained how, “You can tell through Brenna’s projects she’s passionate about what she does. She doesn’t cut corners or just submit things to get a good grade. She puts a lot of thought and care into everything she does.

“It’s hard to give one specific style because she’s very versatile, so I’ll just say everything she designs makes me smile. Her color palettes are always fitting and fun, and her illustrations are clean and simple. She has great taste in everything.”

Nikki Massey, a senior majoring in elementary education from Oregon, said she met Rich when they became housemates. “Two years ago, fall semester, we ended up being housemates. We had a room right next to each other. We ended up becoming best friends. We didn’t know each other before. We didn’t have any friends in common.”

Although she initially described Rich as shy, Massey said Rich was always down to try new things and go on adventures with her.

Creating stained glass

Toward the end of Fall Semester 2018, Rich described how she wanted to try something completely different. “I was so used to painting, drawing and graphic design, but I wanted to be able to do something that was more unique and not a lot of people do.”

Massey shared how Rich has made progress since she first started. “I watched her for one project. She was making a little star planet thing for her nieces. She cuts into the glass. She has a clamper, and she would clamp it. Sometimes the shape wouldn’t go exactly how she wanted it. A straight line would sometimes curve, so she would work with that a lot.

“I’ve definitely seen a lot of progression since she started, from her first projects to now. She’s making really cool stuff. It’s always been really cool, but it’s gotten better. She’s learned a lot. I could never do it.”

Rich said her process involves inspiration coming from random places and drawing out various things she sees. “I come up with a design. I sketch it out on a piece of paper. I make a little stencil. Once I have the stencil, there are specific cutters for the glass. You can just cut it. It’s a pretty simple process, it just takes a while.”

However, the process involved a steep learning curve, Rich explained. “It was not easy. I got so frustrated because every time I would try to do anything, the glass would shatter in my hands and my hands would be all bloody. I spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos about how to do it. Once you get one technique, you think, ‘I can do this, so then I have to be able to do this one too.’ I was able to learn from actually doing it and practicing.”

Hungerford shared how when Rich first started. “I know she always loved stained glass and decided to give it a try one day. It can be scary to try new things and put your work out there, but I’m glad she did because she’s amazing at it.”

While she normally works off of simple, abstract sketches, Rich said one of her pieces was inspired by a photo she took of the Koolau mountains from the Kaneohe sandbar. “I made the Ko’olau mountains. That was one of my favorites because being out on the [Kaneohe] sandbar is my favorite view. I decided to take my own perspective on it and create those.”

Massey shared how she admires Rich because although she is one of the most talented people she knows, she is not showy. “She doesn’t need attention or anything. She’s the nicest, sweetest person. She will always be there for you. She’s a really cool person. She’s so different from anybody else I have ever met.

“She’s to herself very much. She doesn’t need to be posting about all her stuff. She totally could be because she’s the most talented person I know. She just doesn’t flaunt it, which I really like. She totally could. I like how private she is. She’s the nicest person ever.”

Hungerford shared a similar sentiment, “Brenna is incredibly genuine. You can tell when you spend time with her that she cares about you and what you have to say. She’s just a naturally kind-hearted person and someone you love to be around.”

The response to her work, Rich said, has been positive. “I was just showing my family and friends at first. They were like, ‘That’s really cool. You could totally sell that stuff.’

“Not a lot of people do it, so people were like, ‘Whoa, I don’t know how you even thought of that.’ Responses from people has been super positive. It makes me want to do it more.”

To learn more about Rich’s work, check out her Instagram, @theglassgurl.