MANCHESTER — In a large studio inside Stained Glass Express, James F. Byrnes manipulated two clear glass rods, rotating them as he held one in each hand, bringing them into and out of the blue and yellow torch flame.

He fused the rods together, describing the method to students in scientific terms: “Get X amount of heat in there and then jam it together.”

The seven students in the Torch Room watched intently, knowing they would shortly get to practice the technique, and nodding their understanding.

Byrnes, a visiting artist from Bellefont, Pennsylvania, who is vacationing in a relative’s camp in Vienna, was giving a six-hour condensed beginner/intermediate course that concentrated on working with glass, showing how things worked and what to avoid.

He said he wanted to “demonstrate the difference between sticking two pieces of glass together and fusing them.”

Sitting comfortably on a stool behind his glassworking torch, he quickly formed a few right-angle bends in a small glass rod to create a square and then converted that to a circle, showing where and how to apply the flaming torch to the glass, telling students, “We’re going to get a lot of the glass a little bit hot.” Then he took it out of the flame to show how the glass slumped.


He also warned them, “Don’t get so focused on the circle that you get your fingers in the flame.”

He added, “If our mission was to make a circle, there are far easier ways to do it.”

Byrnes talked about the working temperatures of 1,600-3,000 degrees.

“The most important thing is don’t overheat it,” he told the students at one point.

The techniques required the use of both the dominant and non-dominant hand, and he even showed how a slightly longer nail on the pinkie finger can serve as a backstop for a rotating rod. As he taught the class, customers in the store stopped to view the lesson through a wall of windows.

Byrnes, who has been working with glass for 40 years — 30 of that as a scientific glassblower making laboratory equipment — was invited to the Manchester studio after one of the instructors there saw him instructing at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, said Janet Parkhurst, co-owner with her husband Richard of Stained Glass Express.


And after the main session, which involved creation of a glass dove, Byrnes said he planned to do some blown glass work for some of the advanced students.

“I produce primarily Christmas ornaments year-round,” Byrnes said. Some of his decorative, blown glass pirouette, spire and finial ornaments and fanciful goblets were for sale on a table at the front of the retail store.

Jen Bourne of Augusta purchased one of Byrne’s wine goblets, the one with a dragon entwined around the stem.

“I really like the swirls and the blue color,” she said, pointing out various features. “Look at the color on the wings and the line on the spine.”

Jason Morgan, an art teacher and chairman of the art department at Cony High School in Augusta, was soaking in the material and shooting an occasional video. “I get to learn how to work with glass and I get to share that with students and even bring them here to experience it on their own,” he said.

Dylan Gifford, an art teacher at Kents Hill School in Readfield, too was taking the course with the idea of bringing students to the studio. “We have a lot of really talented and interested art students.


“I’ve always been a fan of glass,” said Gifford, who works largely with sculpture and ceramics. “This has similar concepts but a new medium.”

Two women who already work with stained glass were looking to expand their repertoire.

“I’m here to learn techniques,” said Lisa Costello of Wayne. “I’ve worked with blown glass for a few years and stained glass for 10. I make it in my home and sell it or gift it.”

Lori Rezendes of Newport does stained glass mosaics. “I’m always interested in something new,” she said. “I want to see if there is a way to incorporate this into stained glass and make it three-dimensional.”

Janet Parkhurst and Kelli Corrigan, Glass Academy director, described a number of courses offered at the studio, all of which are listed on the store’s website.

“We get a variety of people who want to learn the craft,” said Parkhurst, whose children Tobias and Soo Parkhurst own O&P Glass in Augusta.


Stained Glass Express was formerly at 10 Railroad Square in Waterville. “We outgrew that space,” she said, and relocated to Manchester three years ago. Since then, the business has grown considerably, she said, “We had three employees when we started and we have seven employees now.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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