Over seven years ago, Leo Braunstein, of Newtown, sketched a drawing of a three-paneled stained glass door at the Northampton Township Senior Center long before it moved across the street to its current location at 165 Township Line Road in Richboro. The creation of these panels became a class project that has been overseen for the past five years by current class mentor, Charlie Kelly from Churchville. Throughout the years, members of this stained glass class have come and gone, but while attending this class many of them have contributed ideas and created glass pieces for the first panel. This past June, the class completed this first panel, consisting of 200 individual glass pieces, and donated it to the Senior Center. The class placed it in the middle panel of the craft room door for all to see and admire.
“Multiple hands have been involved in this panel,” says Senior Center Director, Sheila Jobs. “It has been touched by so many people, some of whom are no longer with us any more, like Leo who has since passed away. It’s nice to know these people will continue to live on through this project.”
“The panel came out prettier than what we expected,” said Charlie. “Even though it’s been a long process, it was well worth the effort.”
John Pisciotta of Newtown, a class member for about a year and a half, made the wood frame of the panel and cut out a few of the glass pieces. “The completed panel is an extraordinary piece of art,” he said.
Beth Stein of Churchville, another student who helped design the panel said, “I think it’s fabulous that so many people have helped create this panel. It’s truly an original.”
“It means a lot that this class wanted to make this panel a permanent part of our center,” said Sheila. “This finished panel is a great example of how a group of people can come together, learn a skill and create a beautiful piece of art.”
Charlie, who first took a stained glass class through the Township 30 years ago, has been creating stained glass pieces as a hobby since then. He, along with his students, emphasize that patience is key when working with glass. “Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry and want to leave with a finished product,” says Charlie. “It usually takes about six weeks to complete your first finished piece.”
As this is a beginner’s class, everyone starts on a small project and then progresses at their own speed without any pressure to meet a deadline. While designing this panel, Charlie explained that they’ve been using a drawing that is the exact size of the craft room’s three-panel door. Within the drawing each piece has a number that represents its size and another number that represents the color of glass.
“We use this as a roadmap,” explained Charlie. “Instead of a paint by numbers, this becomes a glass by numbers. You take the glass and trace it on the template, so it’s the right size. Next, you hand cut the glass on a cutting board and then you build it right on the template. You grind the glass so the edges are smooth. Finally, you place foil along each piece of glass and then solder the entire piece together.”
Charlie anticipates that it will take approximately two more years to complete the next panel of the door, which is currently being worked on. Although this three-door panel is the biggest project being worked on during class, nobody is required to contribute to it. Many students might donate one or two pieces to the panels and then focus on their own projects.
Beth and her husband, Ed Stein, are working diligently on a stained glass window that they plan to place on the craft room’s window. All the glass was donated to them from their friend, Helen Cannala, who has retired from the craft.
“I like making things from stained glass because it gives me the feeling of creating something beautiful,” said Beth.
Helene Cohen of Holland, new to the group, has already completed a stained glass Phillies baseball for her grandson and a heart for her granddaughter. “Each piece is different and unique and has the personal touch of the person creating it,” said Helene.
According to Sheila, the Senior Center provides little funding to this self-supporting class thanks to so many donations of stained glass. If you’d like to donate stained glass to the center, call Sheila at 215-357-8199 or simply stop by the Senior Center. The stained glass classes are open to anyone ages 55 or older for just $1 a class. They are held Mondays from 9:30am to 2:30pm and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 3:30pm.