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By CINDY SIMPSON
Shards of richly colored glass cast a warm glow in the home and heart of a Kingston craftsman.
John Johnson and his wife, Shar, developed a love of stained-glass artwork when they attended a workshop nine years ago.
Now the Johnsons have set up a workshop in their basement.
He started out making simple stained-glass sun-catchers for the garden, but has moved on to a more ornate array of items, including a glass fire screen for his fireplace, a lamp in the Prairie School style favored by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and some pieces inspired by his own imagination.
“If you count my little sun-catchers, I have probably done 300 pieces,” Johnson said.
The work is painstaking in any form, although it once was more so.
“We’re quite fortunate. The modern technique is much easier,” Johnson said.
Today’s artisans have glass grinders to smooth glass edges to fit a pattern.
In the past, artisans had to cut the glass as close as they could to the exact size and pattern they wanted.
If they didn’t, they would have to grind it by hand.
“They would have to take a file and file down the glass,” Johnson said.
His love of the craft extends beyond the how-to.
“You absorb a lot of history,” Johnson said. He had one instructor who made sure he passed on many of the historical details.
Johnson notes there are two forms of stained-glass artistry.
One uses copper foil to pull together smaller pieces. This is the style associated with the making of Tiffany-style lamps.
Artisans use a copper foil adhesive to wrap along the edges of the glass pieces. Once the glass pieces are fit together, they can solder the pieces together, Johnson said.
For bigger pieces, lead holds the glass together.
The lead strips are physically wrapped around the glass, building a grid network that holds everything together.
Three years ago Johnson got into that process and is creating larger pieces.
Johnson uses stained- glass pattern books for ideas to make his own.
Johnson found etched glass featuring a Victorian “lovely lady” pattern at a glass shop, and is looking for the right pattern to incorporate it into.
“It is at least 50 years old,” Johnson said.
He also has another glass piece he loves that has an etching of an unidentified bird.
“When you go to a glass shop you are always prowling,” Johnson said.
Don’t look to buy any of Johnson’s work. He doesn’t want his passion to feel like work.
He does love to showcase his wares around his house.
Johnson knows exactly where his Victorian lady will be going.
She will soon be overseeing cooking activities from her perch in the kitchen window.
One of Johnson’s original pieces is of a white cross surrounded by layers of textured glass. It is the hill, or Golgotha — the place where Christ was crucified.
Johnson said the time he puts into each project varies.
“This one was really simple because the pieces were big,” he said of his cross image.
Another piece, “The Tree of Life,” is larger, with possibly 85 pieces.
He will soon be taking on a project for the Sisters of St. Mary, a convent in Sewanee.
The large piece involves the image of an Easter lily, with more than 200 pieces.
Drawing and measuring takes the most work.
“The drawing part is very painstaking,” Johnson admitted, but said the drafting classes he took in college have been helpful.
For someone interested in learning about the craft, Johnson recommends the same start he had — taking a good class.