Stained-glass artist returns to cutting edge of new designs after one-year hiatus

November 05, 1990|By Robert A. Erlandson

Jewel-like colors danced across the wall as the sun gave life to the intricate unicorn and carousel-horse stained-glass panels mounted next to the baby's crib.

"I made them for him. I wanted to make something just for him," said Lisa Beach Pastore, indicating her 15-month-old son, Christian, whose big blue eyes snapped open from a nap.

The panels mark the 32-year-old artist's return to work with stained glass after a year's maternity hiatus.

She is busy preparing for her first show since her return, to open Dec. 1 in the lobby of the Baltimore County Courts Building in Towson.

Examples of her work -- some of which will be exhibited -- are all over her Perry Hall town house. Glass of different textures creates an appearance of motion in a large panel of a waterfall, and the eyes of birds and animals gleam brightly from other designs.

The self-taught artist says she is not trying to become another Louis Tiffany or emulate the work of the artisans who created magnificent windows in medieval cathedrals. Rather, Mrs. Pastore said, she tries to create contemporary designs of her own, although customers often ask her to reproduce a specific design.

Customers have asked her to reproduce china and quilt patterns in stained glass and even favorite photographs. She also repairs old Victorian stained-glass pieces, which is tricky because of the need to match the antique glass in color and texture, she said.

Her steadiest work is for the T.G.I. Friday restaurant chain, whose outlets feature Tiffany-style lamp shades and stained-glass windows, wall and ceiling panels.

"Customers who get [drinks] cut off at the bar will put a fist through a panel, or a waitress will swing a tray and break a lamp shade -- those kinds of things," Mrs. Pastore said.

She does the repair work for the chain's establishments between Virginia and New York, always between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m.

"They lock me in with the cleaning crew, and I work all night," Mrs. Pastore said.

The toughest job is repairing a broken ceiling panel, she said. "You have to climb a ladder and then [lie] across beams to fit the new pieces into place."

Because the restaurant chain has standardized the designs in all of its outlets, she knows just what kinds and colors of glass to put in the cloth satchel she calls "my T.G.I. Friday bag."

She has created pieces for other businesses, too, including the Rusty Scupper Restaurant's sailing ship emblem, and she did several door panels for the Mansion House at the Baltimore Zoo. Her albums are full of colored photographs of work done for individual clients.

But Mrs. Pastore's workshop hardly merits the name. The cramped corner of her basement laundry room serves, she said, because she works with small individual pieces of glass.

"It's not real impressive, but it works," she said. When she needs space to assemble a large piece, she uses her brother's basement.

The mechanics of the stained-glass art are relatively simple, Mrs. Pastore said, requiring only basic tools: glass cutters, snippers to trim small pieces and a grinder to smooth the edges, copper foil to bind the edges, and solder to connect the pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, into a coherent whole.

She allows that she has become a fair hand with a soldering iron.

She draws two copies of the full-size pattern, cutting one as templates for the pieces of glass and assembling them on the other. Mrs. Pastore has a sketch pad full of ideas she wants to try some day, either for herself or for a client.

Bins and drawers hold sheets of glass of various colors, transparent and translucent, smooth and textured. In combination, like paint daubs on an artist's palette, they produce the colors and texture that give depth to the design.

Translucent glass has a streaked appearance and is much more expensive than transparent glass. Mrs. Pastore said she could create a 6-foot panel in the cheaper glass for $300, while the same thing in the "better glass" could cost as much as $3,000.

A Baltimore native who spent her formative years in Okinawa, Japan, where her father worked for Martin Marietta Corp., Mrs. Pastore graduated from Essex Community College in 1979 and then transferred as an art major to Towson State University, where she is still taking courses.

Mrs. Pastore said she had always been fascinated by the beauty of stained glass but "had no idea how it worked.

"I couldn't paint, but I was always good at drawing," she said, and so she went to a local hobby shop that had a section for stained glass and offered classes.

"I didn't take the classes," Mrs. Pastore said. "I asked a lot of questions, bought some stuff and found out I was good at it.

"Every time I ran into a problem I'd go back and ask more questions, then come home and play around with it. I'm self-taught and proud of it."

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