July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

It’s delicate work while cutting in class

GUILFORD TWP. — Glass and solder. You might not think two such simple components could add up to endless possibilities, but when it comes to the art of stained glass, they do.

Of course, it helps to add a third ingredient, which is know-how, and that’s where Brian Hewit comes in. He’s been offering stained glass classes to students from all over northern Ohio for 16 years.

Hewit, 48, got hooked on it himself after taking an adult education class at the Medina County Career Center 26 years ago. First he tried a class in upholstery. That didn’t work out so well.

“Me and sewing machines don’t get along,” he said with a laugh.

Nancy Mayes of Montville Township grinds the edge of a piece of Nancy Mayes of Montville Township grinds the edge of a glass piece to fit in a stained glass lampshade she’s making as a gift. (John Gladden / Gazette)

But there was something about stained glass that clicked. Newly retired from the Career Center after 30 years of service in the custodial maintenance department, Hewit has more time to devote to teaching and to his own glass projects.

He holds classes at the Career Center, at his home outside Seville, and in Lakeside, Ohio. He’ll host an annual open house at his home studio in November, where he also makes candles.

On a recent fall Saturday, three of Hewit’s students gathered in his downstairs workshop to cut, solder and create.

“The problem is the glass is addictive,” said Nancy Mayes of Montville Township, who’s been taking classes since 1995. “There are just so many types of glass. That’s just fuel for the fire.”

Mayes was at work on two projects. The first is a garden stepping stone featuring a stained glass Highland Hornet. When finished, the stone will go into a raffle to benefit the football team. Her other project is a stained glass lampshade, a gift to her niece for a baby’s room. Mayes is using stained glass colors that complement the nursery décor.

“To have the ability to customize gifts for family and friends, that’s fun,” she said.

“That’s something you can’t buy in a store,” Hewit added.

Students typically start with an idea from pattern books he keeps on hand, or they may bring their own designs. Projects over the years have included angels, nightlights, candleholders, picture frames, lanterns, ornaments, sun catchers and glass beads. Some students have made stained glass windows for their homes.

“It’s fascinating for me to see all the projects they come up with,” said Hewit.

Each shape in the design is transferred to a piece of glass from the library of stained glass Hewit stocks in his workshop. The lines are traced with a scoring tool and the glass snaps neatly in two.

Cutting glass for the first time can be intimidating. But with the right tools, which Hewit supplies, it’s pretty simple.

“Once you get the glass cutter in their hand, and they break the glass successfully, then they feel more confident,” Hewit said.

After cutting, the edges of each piece of glass are fine-tuned with a small diamond-wheel grinder.

Fitting her lampshade’s stained glass shapes together like a jigsaw puzzle, Mayes turned to a grinder to shave just a little more from one edge.

“You don’t want to take off too much,” she said. “You can always take off more, but you can’t add.”

After a quick run past the grinder wheel, Mayes put last piece in place.
“See, I just took a little bit off and it fits perfectly,” she said.

Next, the edges of each piece of glass are lined with foil tape. It gives the solder something to stick to when it’s time to attach all the pieces together.

Nancy Baldwin of Medina, who also has been taking classes since 1995, has made more than 60 kaleidoscopes. It’s rewarding, she said.

“When you’re done, it’s so nice,” said Baldwin.

Assembling a glass box, Kathi Slayton from Copley said she never thought she’d be able to do stained glass. That was five years ago. Now she’s got her own workshop at home, but she still comes to Hewit’s classes for the camaraderie and to discover new things.

“The challenge of it, as well as the variety, is what hooks you,” Slayton said.

Contact John Gladden at gladden@ohio.net.