“Stained glass is a powerful medium,” says Bruce Hippel. “It transmits light, and light’s always changing, so the art is always changing.”
Put that way, stained glass seems like the perfect medium for nautical art since the sea, and the creatures within it, are also in constant flux.
Hippel has been using glass as his painter’s palette for nearly 40 years since he taught himself, through countless cuts, how to work with it. He has pieces on display as far away as Panama City, Florida, with many of his works on display in churches, businesses, and private residences in southern New Jersey.
Hippel merged his passion for fishing with his passion for stained glass early in his career when, in 1983, he made striped bass corner pieces for his home. The following day, he went to the jetties in Cape May and caught his very first striper.
Working with stained glass allows Hippel to play with light, line, and color to create one-of-a-kind pieces for his clients. Each one starts with a pencil drawing that he then replicates at full size before going to work with the glass. For a private residence in Sea Isle City, Hippel created an underwater scene that likely plays out in the South Jersey surf throughout the summer.
The large striper draws the eye, but the longer you look at the piece, the more you see. There is a fluke, a horseshoe crab, a diamondback terrapin, and even small baitfish fleeing the maw of the bass. Hippel fully captures the movement and turbulence of nearshore waters through the use of line and color.
Hippel has recreated marlin, sailfish, and stripers in stained glass, but he hopes to do a weakfish someday. “They are the most beautiful fish,” Hippel said, admiring the subtle shift of color from green to purple to white and, of course, the translucent yellow fins.
In the spring of 2021, Hippel moved from southern New Jersey to South Carolina, and when we spoke, he was practicing restraint by vowing not to fish until he’d completed the setup of his new studio. Nearby marshes are similar to those of southern New Jersey, but with red drum and speckled trout replacing striped bass and weakfish. Hippel is equally eager to catch them and to capture their essence with the light, color, and line of stained glass.
To see more of Bruce Hippel’s work and to contact him, visit brucehippelstainedglass.com.