By C.V. Moore
When stained glass artist Stephanie Danz shows off a sheet of hand-rolled glass, marbled as it is with deep blues, greens and purples, her pleasure in the materials of her craft is clear.
“The greens aren’t just greens,” she explains as she plucks the brittle beauty from a stack in her studio in Fayetteville.
“You can see water, motion, depth. Everyone will look at it and see something different.”
It’s just this kind of excitement and appreciation that Danz tries to share with the students who come to the Mountain Art Glass studio weekly to make lamps, panels and all manner of decorative glass work.
Some students have been with her for years and some just pass through the studio, make their sun-catcher and move on. Advanced students go on glass-buying field trips with Danz to choose just the right color or texture to make their work glow.
As Danz talks about her work, one of her students, Leah Peal, drops by the studio to choose some glass.
“I’m going to have to take out stock in Band-Aids if I keep doing this,” she joked.
But in all earnestness, Peal calls the practice of making stained glass “therapeutic” and says she has learned patience along the way.
She whips out photos of a large glass panel depicting an enormous stacked deli sandwich, which she made for her father’s restaurant in Charlotte.
With Danz’s help, Peal’s goal is to enter her work in Tamarack’s juried show this summer.
Mountain Art Glass is once again signing up students for six-week classes at the beginner and intermediate levels. Danz keeps them small, about four students, so everyone has enough space and instruction.
“I can hear when people are grinding incorrectly on the machine without even looking,” says the seasoned instructor.
She also teaches workshops and seminars on repairing and restoring glass; creates custom panels and windows; and keeps busy filling wholesale orders for Tamarack and other retail businesses.
Danz came to the New River Gorge for whitewater rafting in the 1970s and felt an immediate connection with the natural surroundings there.
“The first morning, I came out of my tent in Thurmond and said, ‘I’m going to live here someday.’ I was in love with the river, there’s no question about it,” she said.
Friends showed her property in Danese and, she said, “that was it.” She’s called West Virginia home for 23 years.
That love for her adopted state is an essential part of her work, which is rife with images of the New River Gorge Bridge, rhododendrons and green mountains.
“I get endless inspiration when I look at the river. I still can’t believe I live here. I have to pinch myself all the time,” said Danz.
Case in point is a series of panels created for a McDonald’s in Rainelle. She hauls them out of a corner in her studio, where they await repair.
One is a scene of the famous grist mill at Babcock State Park, another shows the classic cliff-top view from Hawk’s Nest and a third depicts a Conestoga wagon winding down the Midland Trail.
During her career, Danz has participated in numerous arts and crafts fairs and serves on the artisan advisory board in the glass category at Tamarack, where she finds her creative support system.
She learned the art of stained glass from her sister and brother-in-law in Pennsylvania, where she is from originally. In 1990, she switched gears from a career as a corporate head hunter and opened a stained glass business.
“What I try to do here is open my students up to possibilities,” said Danz.
They often come to her with insecurities about a lack of “creative talent.”
“I think everybody has talent. And if you can learn to become a good technician, you can do stained glass,” she said. “Getting the colors right and designing will come later, but you have to get your confidence just making things. Plus we have patterns you can use.”
Peal calls herself a “black and white” thinker and doesn’t identify as an artist.
“I’m not a creative person, but I feel like I am when I’m here,” she said.
In beginners’ classes, students spend two hours per week creating three projects: a sun catcher, a fan lamp and a panel. Danz may also offer a kaleidoscope class and a lamp class, where participants make Tiffany reproductions.
Six-week morning, evening and afternoon classes are available at $150, plus tools.
Mountain Art Glass is also lining up monthly guest artist classes on textiles, polymer clay and precious metal clay.
The studio and retail space is located at Dove’s Outlet Village on U.S. 19 in Fayetteville.
For more information, visit the Mountain Art Glass Facebook page; call 304-894-7905; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.