When I was in my early 20s, I had the opportunity to travel through Europe with a Eurail Pass. Although we didn’t have a big budget, we made the most of every city and visited some famous churches and cathedrals because they were free. My favorite part of these buildings were the stained glass windows. I loved how the light shone through these glass paintings and illuminated each scene.
As I grew older, I continued to admire stained glass and thought it would be really neat to learn how to make my own creations someday. It wasn’t until I visited a friend’s house and saw all of the stained glass he had made that I realized I really wanted to learn. So, I added it to my List of 50 Things.
Something amazing happens when you make up your mind to do something. Somehow, the thing you really want to do becomes possible. Have you ever had this happen to you? If you don’t recognize it and take advantage of it, the moment quickly passes.
Well, right after I added stained glass making to my List, an email arrived in my inbox from my friend, Andrea Rosborough. Andrea is an amazing artist and teacher and my kids have taken art classes from her over the years. Normally, her emails are invitations for parents to sign their kids up for classes. However, this time, she was teaching a stained glass class for adults and wondered if I would be interested! This was so random I couldn’t believe it (I also decided it wasn’t random). So, of course, I signed up right away and waited in anticipation for the date of the class to arrive.
When I got to class the first evening, I could see that Andrea had set up tables outside so we could social distance while we created (Covid). After meeting the other students (5 other adult women), Andrea proceeded to give us an overview of the class and explain what we would be making. Coming from an artistic family, I thought it would be easy. After all, I can paint and draw (well enough) and thought it wouldn’t be much different. I was wrong.
Right away, I discovered that I couldn’t see very well up close. I usually don’t need reading glasses because I wear monovision lenses (two different prescriptions for each eye). But when I started to work with the stained glass, I discovered that my near vision was severely impaired. Over the next two hours, I found myself squinting to see the small lines I was creating with the copper foil, and my head was starting to hurt. Suddenly, I felt very old and slow. This was not going as I had planned.
There was a time when I wanted to learn how to quilt, crochet, knit, watercolor, etc. but I‘ve discovered that I just don’t have the patience like I used to. I still want to learn how to make pottery (#18 on my List), but I really struggle with the creative process.
I think a lot of it has to do with the lack of control. If you ask my kids, they will all tell you I like to have control of things in my life. I don’t think I’m a control freak, but I do try to control the things I can (please tell me that’s not the definition of a control freak). This is likely why living a Skiwampus life has been especially challenging for me. I don’t like making plans and having things not turn out.
The creative process is a process of surrender, not control — Julia Cameron.
Over the evenings that followed, I began to look forward to searching for just the right colored glass, grinding down the edges, and smoothing copper foil along the surface.
Until you create with stained glass, you don’t realize how much grinding it takes to make the pieces “fit” together. Grinding is necessary because your cuts aren’t usually straight. As I held each piece up to the electric grinder, I thought about my own rough edges that had been smoothed out over the years. I began to realize that even though my life was still Skiwampus, it wasn’t as rough as it had been and some things were finally starting to smooth out.
Over the course of my class, I made a star, a dragonfly, and two butterflies. Although making stained glass was A LOT harder than I thought it would be, I learned a lot in the process. I learned that I don’t want to create stained glass for a living. I learned that just because you’re good at one type of art doesn’t make you an artist in another. But mostly, I discovered that my life is just made up of a bunch of pieces of cut glass, smoothed out, and put back together to create something beautiful.
Watch the video here.