Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Appreciating Stained Glass

In 1983 I opened a stained glass studio in the small town of Pierce City, Missouri. It was a small studio during the first few months and then I got a chance to purchase a large building for a really great price. I soon moved across the street into the new location and set up shop.

The town was a small town and there were several vacant business spaces, so residents were very interested in what we were doing. One day, an older fellow came into the shop, he was a tall thin fellow, dressed in farm clothing and slightly stooped over in the shoulders. I was standing at a bench, cutting glass to fit in an art glass panel. He looked around the shop with interest, reached out to touch some glass pliers hanging on a wall display and then asked, “What are you gonna’ do here,” in a slow drawl.

I sat my glass cutter down, wiped off my hands on a rag and replied that we built stained glass windows for people and we also taught classes on how to make stained glass.

He gave that information a moment to sink in. I could tell he was really thinking this over, his mind racing even though outwardly he appeared to be very calm and relaxed. “What do ya do whith it once you get it made?” was his next question.

My mind reeled at the question, I thought it was self evident what one would do with stained glass. “Oh, “ I calmly replied, ”You can hang it in a window so the sun can shine through it. Some people have installed it in the transoms over their doors and one lady even built a piece of glass as a room divider.”

The old man pondered this new information, he kept nodding his head and looking around, trying to take it all in, he wasn’t the type to make snap decisions or pass quick judgments. He was really thinking on what I’d said and what he’d seen, then he made a statement, “You can’t see through it.”

And that was true, you couldn’t see through the glass and in that man’s mind, a window was a thing that you looked through. No amount of conversation was going to change his mind, the only hope I had of demonstrating the value of stained glass was to show him something that he really liked. But the moment passed and he left, never understanding what we were really doing in our studio. I could hardly wait to get home and tell Jeanne about that man because it seemed so funny, so extraordinary to meet someone who just didn’t get it.

Now, with a few more years of experience under my belt, I look at that moment with different eyes. I think back to my teenage years, going to Sunday school with my friends where all the boys were excitedly discussing the different basketball games of the day before. I listened to all their words, all that excited discussion about the games and I tried to understand what was so exciting about them. I’d played the game in gym when I had to, I’d seen a game or two but I just didn’t get the connection. These were guys who were so enthusiastic about the game, they knew the stats of all the teams and many of the players. They knew the standings of the teams, who was going to the playoffs, who was going home. They thrived on the game, no detail was missed, no statistic too small to be uninteresting. And they loved to talk about the game, about the sport, about the contest, about their opinion how a team could be turned around.

But no matter how hard I listened, no matter how interested I tried to be, I just couldn’t understand the draw of the game, until I met a retired teacher who had taught basketball in high school. His name was Lou Dean Flake and he had moved to Missouri to retire. He had taught school in Wyoming and then in Arizona. What was fascinating to me was his description of the game of basketball. Coincidently, he had done some of his first teaching in the same school that my Dad was attending when he was in high school. He talked about how great it was to watch my dad play basketball. “He had the greatest, natural one handed shot of anyone I’ve ever seen,” he was fond of telling me. Imagine that, my Dad had been a great basketball player and as he had kids, not one of them had an interest in the game. But listening to Mr. Flake describe the games and the coaching he’d done, I got a glimpse of what could be so compelling.

I still don’t get it. I sit in a room with sports enthusiasts and feel like an outsider, but that’s okay. I appreciate passion and I feel good for them that they can find so much joy in the game, year after year. After all, I find joy in cutting little pieces of glass from big sheets and then putting the glass back together. I find joy in spending countless hours grinding and fitting and learning every detail I can about stained glass. I’ll bet a lot of those ball players would shake their heads in wonder at how anybody could find it all so interesting, after all, “You can’t see through it.”

For more articles on stained glass visit http://www.gommstudios.com/stained-glass-articles/articles.htm

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Nov-How To Clean A Really Dirty Window

Once, I left a window to be cleaned for over a month. It was made with clear artique glass, so all imperfections showed up and the flux that had sat on the panel left the glass looking cloudy after a normal cleaning. I was really worried because I had done this to several windows and faced having to build them all again from scratch. Flux should be cleaned off of a window as soon as possible to avoid this problem.

Read the whole article with pictures by clicking the title above.