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Huntsville artist creates piece for Limestone Co. courthouse

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Limestone County courthouse has been standing proudly at the center of downtown Athens for almost 100 years. A piece of stained glass art now hangs inside the historic structure. And it was created and made in Huntsville.

Julie Gill is an artist. But unlike someone who paints on canvas, her palette is limited. “I can’t take a little bit of white and a little bit of red and make exactly the pink I want,” she told me sitting on a stool in her studio. But that doesn’t limit her creativity. “I am ruled by the glass that I have on hand,” she said.

Julie works with glass and some of the pieces she showed me could be put in a frame and hung on a wall. In fact, she admitted doing that with several sheets she bought.

She showed me one and remarked, “That is an exceptional piece of glass.” When I told her it looked like a piece of art in itself, she smiled and said, “Yes. It’s called art glass. It’s great stuff.”

So are the pieces she creates in her Big Glass Art Studio at Lowe Mill. Some of her work is for sale. Some of it is not. They’re pieces in her collection.

As an artist, Julie is fascinated with the idea of painting with light. “No matter what, light changes all day long with the sunrise to the sunset,” she said. “If it’s an incandescent light, it doesn’t matter. It’s always going to change.” And so will the way we see her creations.

Holding up another piece of glass, she said, “This is another really good one, just because it has such luminescence to it. It’s so different.” It was perfect for the piece she was doing for the Limestone County Courthouse. “I was thinking about the terrain of the state and how there’s forests and there’s flat land and there are rivers and there’s water,” she said.

Her ideas start on paper. It’s a blueprint for the final piece. “This is the law,” She said. “Because if this isn’t right, nothing after this can be right.” A mistake will show up later.

Julie spent months working on the piece that is almost five feet around. “Physically, between cutting the glass, putting it together and them mudding it, it was probably, 120 hours,” she said.

Like the courthouse, her work will stand the test of time. Who knows, perhaps in 100 or 150 years from now, people will be talking about her work as they walk under where it hangs in the courthouse. “You know, my daughter says that.” she said laughing. “I hope they say nice things.”

Julie also teaches classes at her Lowe Mill studio. They range from copper foil and sun catcher classes to make and take and sip and solder classes. If you’d like to try your hands at glass art, she’d love to teach you. Check out her website Big Glass Art.