Creating stained glass art at Featherstone

Brian Weiland created a stained glass guitar for the class. —Courtesy Featherstone Center for the Arts

One unique way to add some brightness and color to your home is by placing a stained glass piece in a window, allowing natural sunshine to bring a work of art to life and reflect colors around a room. For those DIYers out there, there’s now an opportunity on-Island to create your own personal stained glass piece. For the first time in many years, Featherstone is hosting a stained glass workshop, which offers the chance to complete a project in four weekly classes.

Jamie Hathaway, who runs the workshop, says that anyone can create a stained glass piece. “You can either use a pattern or create your own. You don’t really need to have any artistic ability.” Hathaway provides all of the necessary materials and tools. The only thing she requires her students to provide is a ventilator mask to use during the soldering stage. The most challenging thing about creating stained glass is the number of steps involved, but she says, none of the necessary skills are difficult to master.

So far, two individuals have completed the workshop. Both created unique pieces of their own design. Kelsey Cosby, after considering different options, decided on a large hand-drawn image of a fireplace log with flames, made up of around 60 individual pieces. Musician and Oak Bluffs School music teacher Brian Weiland used an actual guitar to create his very personalized piece. After cutting out the front of the instrument, he laid in a rainbow design, painted the inside white. and backlit it with LED lights. As a finishing touch, he added strings and a bridge.

“I had never attempted anything like this before,” says Weiland. “I had never cut glass. I had never soldered.” However, he adds, “There’s not one step that anybody can’t do. The hardest part for me was the soldering, because I wanted perfect straight lines. It took me a little bit to figure out how to do that.”

Hathaway explains the process. Using sheets of colored glass that she provides, the first step is drawing your design (if you choose not to use a predrawn pattern) onto the various colored sheets. You score the glass with a hand tool with a diamond bit wheel. Then you snap the glass with a pair of special curved pliers. You use a glass grinder that works with water to grind the edges smooth. You evenly fold copper foil around the edges of each piece. This is used as a surface for the solder to adhere to. Then, using a soldering iron, you attach the pieces with strips of solder. There is no flame involved, just a superheated tool. After that, you can use a patina if you prefer something other than a silver finish. For example, you may want a copper color, or black, antique look.

Hathaway has been working with metal for years. “I started with silversmithing, which led me to other metals,” she says. She has worked with copper and even blacksmithing. For many years, she sold her work at the Artisans Festival. After a two-year break, during which time she worked at the Chicken Alley thrift store, Hathaway will be back at the festival this year, selling jewelry and stained glass items such as sun catchers and mandalas. You can find her at the Memorial Day festival, although she will be having a baby in June, which may limit her participation during the summer months.

Hathaway also teaches silversmithing courses, in which students can create a bracelet, pendant, or ring during multiple-week classes. Instructor Cecilia Minnehan offers one-day classes that involve a variety of projects, including soldering stackable rings and sea glass charms.

Weiland is very pleased with his finished project, something that he had hoped to undertake for years. “I have every intention of making another one,” he says. “I’ve already ordered the glass.” He notes that most of the necessary tools, with the exception of the glass grinder, which he had previously purchased for his wife, are relatively affordable.

The next Intro to Stained Glass course will begin on March 11. The classes meet every week for four weeks on Wednesdays from 5 to 8 pm. The fee is $240 plus a $50 materials fee.

For more information on this course or any other classes, check out the Featherstone website,