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Community Highlights: Meet Marlene Zullig

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marlene Zullig.

Marlene, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up in a talented artistic and musical family and cannot remember a time when I wasn’t creating art in some form or another.

From my youngest years, I watched my maternal grandmother create beautiful art and hundreds of handmade original quilts from scraps of fabric in all shapes and sizes. If you could imagine it, my grandmother could create it. She was the most important inspirational person who colored the path that I would eventually take later in my life.

After high school, I attended Bryant College in Rhode Island and graduated summa cum laude with a BS. in Ed. Shortly after graduating, I met the man of my dreams and married him that year.

I became pregnant with my first child, and we both agreed that I would stay home to raise our daughter. So, in the meantime, I enrolled in a Master’s program at the University of Rhode Island. After receiving my M.L.S., my second child was born. We moved from R. I. to New Jersey, and I settled into life as a stay-at-home mom. But that was soon to change in a big way!

Both my husband and I and our children have dual Swiss/American citizenship. We have many relatives in Switzerland. We were offered the opportunity to go abroad and live and work in Switzerland. What I didn’t know then was that this experience was about to change my whole life and direction in life.

I always wanted to be working toward a goal, so when an opportunity was offered to me to establish an English library in our Swiss community, I was excited and energized to take it on. I poured myself into this project with great enthusiasm and as a result, met many interesting and talented people. I recruited volunteers to set up a Storytime program to read to local children and in the process teach English in a relaxed way. We had arts and crafts classes that we offered free to local children as well. It was a huge success and the program grew.

Then, one day when I least expected it, my life changed dramatically. One of the parents who signed their children up for our art classes happened to own stained glass business in the town. In our initial conversation, she invited me to visit her shop. I did so the very next day! I watched as her talented artists cut glass in all sizes and shapes and colors and pieced these pieces together to form beautiful pieces of glass art!

As I watched, my mind went back to the vision of my grandmother cutting scraps of fabric in all shapes and sizes and piecing them into beautiful quilts. Eureka!! Stained glass is similar in many ways to hand quilting in that each piece is individually cut out and pieced together in a way that creates beautiful art. I never looked back!

Stained glass became my passion. After working with my newfound friend in her shop, I enrolled in some formal classes in Basil. I could not get enough. We moved back to New Jersey the following year. I continued to take courses and trained with an artist in Toms River, New Jersey. After my third child was born, we moved to upstate New York where I was offered a position as a Media Specialist in our local school district. I continued with stained glass classes and began to offer my work for sale. We later moved to Charlotte, NC.

I continued to combine my teaching career with my career in creating stained glass art. After a short time living in Charlotte, North Carolina, we moved to St. Augustine where I took a teaching position in St. Johns County School District. During this time, my love of art and creating stained glass continued to grow until 2012 when I made the decision to leave teaching and try to enter the art world in St. Augustine.

I quit a full-time teaching position after a 25-year career on the chance that I could devote full time to my art. By this time, my art was being noticed, and I was encouraged to apply for membership in the oldest art gallery in St. Augustine–Professional Artists of St. Augustine (P.A.St.A.). I was thrilled when my art was juried and I was accepted as a member of this gallery. I continued to work hard and my art flourished.

I was elected President of the gallery two years later and have taken on the challenge of a pandemic where we have emerged stronger than ever. In 2019, P.A.St.A. Fine Art Gallery celebrated its 35th Anniversary. Our gallery was featured on the front page and centerfold of The Compass of The St. Augustine Record. We were all very proud of the recognition. Today, I am leading the charge of taking on a major gallery renovation and have received the Jean Wagner Troemel grant for this purpose.

Each day, I get up at 5 a.m. excited to begin my next stained glass project or continue to work on one that I have already started. I never know what the day holds for me. I often have calls or emails requesting that I create a special stained glass panel or window or perhaps someone walks into the gallery to purchase a piece of my art. There is always something exciting that can come my way when I least expect it.

Each day, I am thankful that I took a chance on myself to change careers.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
From the beginning, it was not an easy path for me. I was able to attend Bryant College as a full-time student only because I took a competitive test and won an R. I. State full scholarship. I competed with students all over the state. My family could not afford to send me to college after high school.

I received my degree four years later, but because I married my husband and we moved out of state after graduation, I was not able to take a job because my first child was born shortly after moving. I remember feeling a bit frustrated that I had this teaching degree and would have to wait until my children were a bit older before taking a full-time teaching position.

It was during this time that I enrolled in a Master’s program, but again, we moved shortly after receiving my Master’s degree. It seemed that my career was always on hold. Working on a Master’s degree with two babies and a major out-of-state move was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. Another challenge came when we left the U. S. to live in Switzerland.

I had two small children at the time, and we had to transition them to Swiss schools and the German language, but I believe that this experience instilled in them certain values that have stayed with them throughout their lives and mine. It was a difficult but transformative time in our lives.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Professional Artists of St. Augustine (P.A.St.A. Fine Art Gallery) is the oldest art gallery in the city of St. Augustine. The gallery is a 501c3 non-profit, cooperative art gallery with presently 17 artists members. We are a selective, juried art gallery. Artists seeking membership first must interview with us and present their artwork to be juried by our Selection Committee.

P.A.St.A. Art Gallery was founded by the legendary Jean Wagner Troemel who passed away on January 18, 2018, at the age of 96. Under her direction, P.A.St.A. has helped launch the artistic careers of numerous local artists. She helped found the First Friday Art walk in the city. She was instrumental in St. Augustine becoming an Art Destination and was very community-oriented.

P.A.St.A. offers art in many forms–Oil, acrylics, pastels, photography, mixed media, woodturning, ceramics, pottery, stained glass, and jewelry. Our members are all local to the greater St. Augustine area, some of whom also sell internationally.

I am a stained glass artist and silversmith. I create original stained glass panels, windows, and lamps. I also create artisan sterling silver and fine silver jewelry. Through the evolution of my stained glass art, I specialize in ocean-inspired stained glass panels and windows featuring native plants, sea creatures, and birds. I am also known for some of my original jewelry pieces.

For example, I am the only artist in the area that creates Keum Boo jewelry. Keum Boo is an ancient Korean technique used to apply 24k gold to fine silver to create unique and beautiful pieces of jewelry. I believe that what sets me apart from other stained glass artists is my subject matter and my original designs. For example, I love to create a Roseate Spoonbill flying over the marsh from a picture that I personally take, or create a Florida pelican standing on St. Augustine Beach from my own photo.

I see things differently when I create a panel or a window, and I love to incorporate found objects that I find on the beach into some of my mosaic mirror-stained glass pieces. I am most proud of how my leadership has played a major role in the evolution of our gallery from where it was when I took over to where it is today. I am so proud of all the artists in our gallery for their beautiful works of art.

Everything that we hang on our walls is an original piece of art. We stand behind everything we create. We will be offering art classes for children from kindergarten to fifth grade starting this spring and expanding our classes to include some for adults.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Patience! Patience has been the most important lesson I have learned along the way.

Believe me, when I first started out, I never dreamed that I would actually be doing something at my stage in life that I love so much and can’t wait to get up each morning and do it all over again.

How many people do I know that can say that? Not many. I feel blessed every day.

Pricing:

  • $400-$1,000+ Stained Glass
  • $40-$100+ Jewelry

Contact Info:

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