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It’s the most expensive suncatcher ever

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Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2003 10:00 pm

Despite the occasional twinges associated with my emptying nest and the inevitable passage of time, there are some definite advantages to growing older.

I have time for myself.

At last, I have time to pursue those things I put off because I was too busy raising children, developing a career, nurturing my marital relationship and creating a home.

One of my desires was to learn the art of stained glass.

Theresa Larson

But despite scouring college catalogs, craft store class lists and recreation department activities lists, I couldn't find a class available in our area. Then, a catalog from the Lodi Arts Commission crossed my desk. Weekly classes teaching stained glass art were being offered at Hutchins Street Square.


I showed up for my first class, a little bleary-eyed after a long day at work, but eager to learn. Our instructor, Ramonah Hartfelder-Raye, was just as anxious to get us started. After an overview of safety instructions, supply lists and stained glass terminology, she opened a box filled with multiple pieces of colored glass. Our first project would be a suncatcher - a small piece designed to hang in a window to catch the light of the sun. She pointed to various patterns.

"Choose any pattern you want," Ramonah invited.

Classmate Don chose an intricate design of a hummingbird. Lee chose a delicate heart design. I was drawn to a Victorian pattern. Then, we all carefully selected the glass that we would use.

My piece would be made of milky white, clear, and wine-colored glass. I traced my pattern onto the glass. I could already imagine it finished. Donning my safety glasses and picking up the glass cutter, I was ready to go.

But the cutter wasn't.

For nearly an hour, I attempted to cut glass. My classmates breezed through their pieces, their cutters making a satisfying grinding noise as they zipped along the patterns on their glass. I watched them out of the corner of my eye, envy filling me.

My cutter seemed determined to frustrate me. Instead of biting into the glass, it soundlessly skimmed the surface. I pressed harder. No grinding noise greeted my ears. I wiped off the glass and tried again. Nothing happened.

"Don't worry," Ramonah smiled reassuringly, "You'll get the hang of it."

I left class, feeling like a failure. How could I become a stained glass artist if I couldn't cut glass?

My husband attempted to encourage me.

"Let's go get your tools. Maybe when you have your own cutter, it will be easier."

Taking Ray into a store that sells tools is like taking a kid into a candy store. Excuse the pun, but I wasn't convinced that I could "cut it" in the world of stained glass. So, getting the bare minimum from the prescribed tool list made sense to me. Ray, however, felt I needed everything in the store in order to be successful. His eyes twinkled and his face flushed with excitement as he discussed soldering irons, electric grinders and rheostats with the store clerk. In a stage whisper, I kept reminding Ray that I really wasn't very good at this craft.

I might as well have been talking to - well - a sheet of glass!

An hour later, he happily carried a multitude of bundles to the car. If I ever mastered the art of cutting glass, I would be making the most expensive suncatcher ever. Oblivious to my assertions that I wasn't any good, Ray was happily planning my career in stained glass creations.

"You know honey, you could make a stained glass window to fill the sidelight on the left side of the fireplace, then make another to match for the other side."

I groaned and rolled my eyes. I COULDN'T EVEN CUT GLASS!

The week passed and I slowly climbed the stairs to the classroom carrying my new tools. Dread filled me as I anticipated another humiliation-filled two hours. Maybe the instructor would save me the embarrassment and let me use the electric grinder to shape the pieces of glass instead of subjecting me to repeat failure with the glass cutter.

Ramonah greeted me with a grin.

"Good news! It's not your fault you couldn't cut glass - I tried and couldn't cut either. It's the cutter. It leaked too much oil on the glass. Let's try it again."

Resolutely, I placed the cutter to glass. The grinding sound of the bit cutting into the glass was like music to my ears. I gripped the glass in my hands and carefully bent - to my surprise, it snapped apart cleanly along the scored line with very little effort.

I smiled. Maybe I would be able to add stained glass artist to my list of accomplishments after all.

"Hey Theresa, do you want to use the grinder next? Just be careful, it grinds fingernails just as easily as it grinds glass."

Horrified, I looked down at my recently manicured fingers. Maybe it wasn't too late to seek a different hobby.

Theresa Larson is the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager. She is married and the mother of five children. Her column appears the first and third Wednesday of the month. She can be contacted at 125 N. Church St., (209) 369-2761 or via e-mail.

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