Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Problem With Teaching Classes

I hope you’ll forgive me, but sometimes, I just need to blow off steam!!!

The other day some students from a nearby college called to say they’d like to stop by and discuss taking classes from us. Those who know us, know that we teach classes not to make money, but to get to know great people and rediscover the joys of stained glass. This was not such a meeting.

They showed up, very nice and agreeable and we took them to the studio where we had a very large project spread out and began discussing their desire to take a class, or rather the wife’s desire to take a class. She began to talk to Jeanne about taking classes and the husband, a young guy, in his twenties started talking to me. “Where do you get your glass from?” he wanted to know. I replied that we bought it from a wholesaler in another state and it came shipped to us by motor freight. “Does it come on a pallet, in a crate?” he further asked. I answered him but got a knot in my stomach, this was a weird question, quite out of the ordinary and not what the casual stained glass student would ask. He soon warned me, “You may not want to teach us about stained glass, because we plan to start a business making stained glass and we’ll be your competition.”

At that, I almost laughed out loud, because the idea of thinking you can go into the stained glass business is great in theory, but until you know the steps and the degree of difficulty that making stained glass pieces consist of, you just have no idea what you’re talking about! I attempted to give him some good advice, that he start small and begin by selling to friends so that he knows what he’s getting himself into before making a big splash in the stained glass business.

Then he told me how little he was interested in stained glass, how it was just a hobby his wife was interested in, how he had just started two other businesses and how he wondered if we could use an abrasive water jet machine to cut glass. I answered frankly that, yes we could, but that wasn’t the bottleneck in stained glass building, that foiling and, especially, soldering was. Then he began to theorize about how a machine could be built to do it for you and once again, I was struck by the lack of qualifications he had to be thinking this way. He had already admitted that he’d never soldered except some electronics work and he’d never welded. He really struck me as a gas-bag who had little real world experience, under qualified to do such a project, but at that arrogant stage where he thought he could do anything!

I did advise him that I could put him in touch with different people we know who are in the business and could give him pointers on how to get started, but he was never interested in hearing how other people are succeeding (or not succeeding) in the business. He was only interested in what he’d learned in school and his own arrogance about his ability to run a business. It bugged me, that as I told him stories of those we know in business and how things have worked for them, that he seemed to have the idea in the back of his head that, “this guy is a jerk, who just doesn’t know anything.” It was obvious that he had no respect for us, or our abilities or our years of experience.

My brother-in-law, Mike, advised me some years ago that I shouldn’t teach classes because it would only be training my competition. I disregarded that advice, not because I though it was without merit, but because I view the world in a different way. That- there is room enough for all to do what they want. There can be many stained glass artists employed in their profession and it doesn’t diminish us if we help another get a foothold. But where he’s right, is when some smart-assed punk, with no money, no experience and no artistic talent comes into my studio and thinks he can do a better job at the business which I’ve worked and failed and succeeded at for 35 years, that’s where having open doors of hospitality and openness may be a mistake!

Contrast that visit with the one we had the next week from a guy who wants to do stained glass as a hobby. He wanted to get all the tools he could easily afford, all the advice we could offer and whatever guidance we were willing to impart. He had read a book or two and had been studying glass work on the internet. He knew many of the terms that glass workers used and he seemed well grounded in embarking on the hobby. He wanted to try to do his first window on his own, with no instruction, just to test his own ability, but he was happy to get our video so he had the basics down before beginning. He had done his homework, was teachable in many areas and yet knew what he wanted. What a difference!

The only problem with teaching classes is that every student isn’t the golden contact we want to meet, some really drive us nuts and it’s often a balance between the best students whom we love and those few oddballs whom we’d rather bar the doors to keep them out.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

How To Build A Window For A Backlit Space

To build a window to fit a backlit space, we first measure the space and draw the pattern. Then we cut off 1/4" all around so the piece will fit when it's completed.

We built the panel and left 1/4" of free space when we soldered it so that we could easily apply 1/4" zinc outer bar to the piece. (the 1/4" Strip fit's over the glass 1/8" and adds 1/8" so the panel is just the right size)

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