Stained glass – new students learn an old craft

Instructor Dave Houser, center, monitors the progress of students Retta Blankenship, left, and Pat Wilfong, during the stained glass class at Green Bank Public Library Friday. Other participants were Jim Bullard, Kay Beverage, Ann Myers and Suzanne Stewart. S. Stewart photo
Instructor Dave Houser, center, monitors the progress of students Retta Blankenship, left, and Pat Wilfong, during the stained glass class at Green Bank Public Library Friday. Other participants were Jim Bullard, Kay Beverage, Ann Myers and Suzanne Stewart. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Imparting his wisdom on the art of stained glass, Preston County resident Dave Houser taught a beginners class at the Green Bank Public Library Friday. In one day, the students created a 7 by 7 1/2 inch Baby Block pattern sun catcher.

Houser began his career in 1981 as a teacher and artist, following in his father’s footsteps. The elder Houser was self-trained in the European style of stained glass – the style the younger Houser prefers.

“I’m pretty much a lead guy when working with stained glass,” Houser said. “It’s the European lead came method. [Louis Comfort Tiffany] is credited with developing this technique. His drawings were so detailed that the lead gobbled it up.”

Lead came are strips used to join the pieces of cut glass to create a picture.

Instead of using lead came, the class used copper tape strips and soldered the pieces together.

“Copper is very adaptable to different uses,” Houser said. “That’s why, if you’re working in glass – in cold glass – you’re probably working with copper versus the lead. The lead has an advantage of looking, depending on the design, old. Even if you’ve just made it, it looks 150 years old when it’s properly done, unless it’s a very contemporary design. It’s got that certain quality of age that I like.”
Houser said stained glass is also referred to as cold glass due to the increase in “hot glass” projects, including slumping and dichroic glass.

Along with selling his artwork and doing commission work, Houser travels the state teaching classes.

“I’ve been at Augusta [Heritage Fair] about twelve years, and down at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Jackson County is where I do most my teaching,” he said. “I enjoy the instruction. I learned a lot. My wife is a retired school teacher, so I’ve learned a lot from her in terms of preparation and that sort of thing.”

The most recognized stained glass pieces are in churches. While he hasn’t made any church windows, Houser said he created five windows for the University of Pittsburgh.

“The largest project I ever involved myself with was with a woodworker in Upshur County named Richard Sink,” Houser said. “He put a bid in on a project at the University of Pittsburgh that involved totally changing a generic classroom into one of the nationality rooms that they have up there.

“In this beautiful building called the Cathedral of Learning – it’s a forty-two story classroom building and the Swiss did not have a room and finally got one room dedicated to their country,” he continued. “I did the windows there. There were five windows, three foot by eight foot that needed to be done.”

Houser selected a more modest project for the class in Green Bank – the Baby Block quilt pattern – and allowed participants to select from a rainbow of colors to create a unique piece of art.

Houser plans to offer another class next year. The class was sponsored by the Green Bank Gallery and Green Bank Arts Center.

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