"Corning doesn't have a place to make stained glass?"
Even now, almost six years later, Joe Barlett's face scrunches up in surprise when he recalls his reaction, back before he opened Stained Glass and Antiques on Market Street. On that weekend trip, a real estate agent produced a list of available storefronts, and Joe walked the district until he found one he liked.
He had made his career as a high school guidance counselor in Pennsylvania, but his passion was teaching people how to make stained glass. He had apprenticed in Reading, Pennsylvania, and started a small store in his grandmother's grocery store there.
Relocation to the Crystal City eventually followed, and now Joe shares that passion with residents and visitors. The shop is an explosion of color and images; sun catchers, ornaments, and lamps crowd every inch of space. Best advice: walk slowly and give yourself time to see it all.
But the studio in the back is the real heartbeat of the place. Joe's students sit at a long table, drawing patterns, choosing glass colors, cutting, grinding, and soldering.
"Anything that can be drawn can be made with glass." This is the consensus of everyone at the table. Pastoral scenes, birds, flowers, animals, and geometric displays abound. When students are coached on how to make a window, don't think of an actual nailed- into-a-frame-in-a-house window. Think of a separate pane, hanging in a house window, positioned to take advantage of the sun's illumination of its colors. Such works of art are often created to celebrate a milestone event. Weddings, anniversaries, retirements, and the birth of a child—the patrons here have presented gifts of their own hands on many such occasions.
But there is other work when you are an expert at the old world craft of stained glass. Commissioned pieces give Joe a long list of locations where he can view his work: the blue irises in the front door of a physician's home; the male and female cardinal by which the farm family remembers their parents; all four sides of the town clock in Hughesville, Pennsylvania. Restoring family treasures also takes some time. People bring lamps and window pieces and Joe returns them to their glory, allowing the glass to continue its journey through a family lineage.
As a stained glass teacher for more than forty years, his learning table is Joe's great source of joy. Students say working with stained glass is addicting. Thankfully, a habit is much harder to break than glass.