Retired music teacher and horse enthusiast finds yet another passion — stained-glass art
March 31, 2014
For Linda McVehil of Hotchkiss, Colo., it all started five years ago when she took her granddaughter, Nikki, to a stained-glass demonstration at the Creamery Art Gallery.
"We were looking for something fun to do together on a Saturday afternoon," explained this retired music teacher. She gestured around the shop she now manages next door, called The Creamery Arts Glass Studio, and added with a huge smile, "I got addicted."
It's quite a change from what she did before — teaching guitar, piano, recorder and band, as well as giving vocal lessons.
In addition, Linda and her late husband, Norman, once raised Arabian horses.
These days, however, her passion is centered on different types of colored glass, and all the wonderful things you can create with it. "Glass is fascinating material to work with. Creating a picture of a dog, for example, using lead outlines, makes you see things differently."
Dogs and horses were primarily what she started practicing with, because "almost everybody has them."
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The problem with those early efforts, however, was that "most patterns weren't good, proportion-wise, when it came to the actual design."
To get around that, Linda began taking pictures of her subjects and making her own patterns from them.
Now, thanks to experience, as well as additional lessons with other artists, she's expanded. Aside from the stained glass that is hung in windows, she sells an assortment of trays, wind chimes, matching necklaces and earrings, and even zipper pulls.
"Linda has an innate, artistic talent," according to her original instructor, Peggy Papon. "When she first began, I could tell that she really got into it, and had great passion. We really clicked."
The two women worked together for a while before Peggy turned the shop over to her.
Peggy continued, "The stained-glass part used to be located behind The Creamery. Knowing I wanted to focus on that type of art, I helped to renovate that original building."
When the commute back and forth from Hotchkiss to her home in Cedaredge got too much, however, Peggy knew right away who'd be the best replacement.
These days, Linda oversees small classes of other glass enthusiasts, from beginner to advanced students.
"I limit the number because of the tools and machinery involved," she said.
Plus, the steps to creating a stained-glass picture can often be quite intricate.
"It often takes three days, from start to finish, depending on the sizes of the glass pieces that are used."
Initially, the pattern is drawn out on paper, then carefully blocked and marked for color choices. After being cut out with scissors, each section is then glued to the glass, and scored with a special knife.
The edges are ground to smooth them; during the process, water is sprayed constantly to keep the glass from getting too hot. The paper patterns will naturally slide off after getting wet, so there's no scrubbing.
After they're dried and pieced back together, lead is used to separate the sections for the finished picture.
"Beginners start with large pieces of glass," Linda explains as she works, wearing safety goggles. "What's really great is that kids, especially, have clean slates, and their own ideas. You can show them how to do this, but then let them figure out their own patterns. It's fun to watch them develop, and see what they come up with."
As an artist member of the Creamery (which is now located next door, with a grassy park that divides them), Linda's monthly, volunteer hours there cover the rent at her stained glass shop … but it almost doesn't matter.
Clearly, she would work for free.
"I love to teach," she said simply, "and I love working with the kids. It's neat that at this stage of my life, I get to share a variety of experiences, from stained glass, to horseback riding, to music and band."
Smiling broadly as she returns to her work table, she concludes, "I don't know any strangers." ❖