Stained-glass craftsmen compare work to jigsaw puzzles

Two area stained-glass craftsmen sometimes take a light-hearted approach to what appears to be one of the most delicate and daunting tasks in home renovation.

"Some people just like jigsaw puzzles," says Tom Olson from Acme Art Glass Studio in Crafton. "I guess we just take it to the extreme."

"Jigsaw puzzles?" says Nick Parrendo, owner of Hunt Stained Glass Studios in the West End. His eyes light up in enthusiasm. "Yeah, that's right. I have always loved jigsaw puzzles."

Although both will create new windows, restoring and repairing old ones is a task that has taken a dominant role in their work. Olson says about two-thirds of his jobs are in that area.

Parrendo, who is owner of a company that has been in business for 115 years, runs through his current work list to find a similar number.

They point out the reason there is so much steady work here is that between 1890 and 1920, when this area was as hot as national industrialization would allow, stained-glass windows were a regular part of house design. What seems lavish now was rather ordinary then, Olson says, adding that the tinted openings often were a way of looking at the world through rose-colored glass, so to speak.

That age, they agree, also is one of the reasons some windows have to be repaired. The leading that holds the pieces of glass has a life of about 100 years, meaning it is now wearing out.

If pieces of glass fall out or are broken, Olson says, they have to be replaced and surrounded by new lead. The other difficult part of that task is matching the type of glass. Modern pieces often are too clear and steps have to be taken to match colors of density.

He says that makes renewal a challenge. Of course, "coming up with new ideas" is almost as difficult, he adds.

Parrendo agrees and pulls out piles of sketches that can be used to offer ideas to customers. Some of them are simple, abstract plays with color, while others are lavish illustrations of real figures and those from fantasy.

Parrendo has worked at that company since 1950 and has owned it since 1987. His son, David, is the manager.

The firm does a variety of commercial and residential work, but he points out that most of his home customers are from this area.

He says one of the most overlooked parts of the task is making a rubbing of the window so a record is made of where all the pieces go. Then it can be disassembled, releaded and put back together.

He says he has seen stained-glass repairs that have totally missed designs or figures because a rubbing wasn't used.

The two agree on the major part of stained-glass repair.

"Time is of the essence," Parrendo says.

Naturally, that can be complicated by the difficulty of design, he says, pointing out a window that has a challenging array of small, leaf-shaped pieces of glass.

Olson agrees and says the time element becomes steady in old and new work, creating a standard of about $150 a square foot to work on any window.

Parrendo agrees, but says that price can rise as high as $300 for more difficult projects.

600450 Stained-glass craftsmen compare work to jigsaw puzzles

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