She arrived with print-outs from our website, and a bag of Scrabble tiles. She wanted the word “leap” in flowing bright colors: red, orange, yellow, and the tiles spelling out “and the net will appear.” She wanted the light to shine through all that color, so the project went to Stratoz. We’ve known this client for a long time, along her path to becoming a minister, with all manner of hurdles, and yet discerning her call, attending Community College, Seminary classes, finding a church and her ordination. It was an honor to know she looked at our work when she needed an infusion of inspiration and joy and that she chose to commission original art as her birthday gift ~ rather than, as she put it, getting another piece of jewelry that she never wears.
Stratoz and I are going to be interviewed for the Northampton Magazine, about alumni accomplishments. One of the questions we were asked to consider was how Northampton Community College(NCC) prepared us to run a business. At first, I didn’t know how to answer this question because I never would’ve have imagined having my own business when I was at the college.
Then I remembered, when I was 19, I petitioned to take a newly created class at NCC called Responding to the Bereaved, which was restricted to Funeral Service Education students. NCC decided to let me in, and there I sat with 10 men and one woman studying to become Funeral Directors, learning about the psychology of loss and bereavement. I took the class because I felt compelled to, in wanting to understand my own pain, but class was a response to the needs of the Funeral students, who wanted more understanding of their clients, who were in the midst of grief.
Some of the members of the class grappled with the material, arguing that they weren’t counselors, and did they need to know all this psychology, but they were willing to consider the possibility. Their profession was important to them, their role of guide at a moment of disruption. I felt out of place as the only outsider, significantly younger than most of the students and the only other woman, but I was struck by the importance of the relationship between the person serving and those being served, and by the stories of the student’s own losses that arose in class discussions. I most likely told Stratoz, when I met him that same year, that I wanted to be a bereavement counselor.
Now here I am, 25 years later, with our business Nutmeg Designs, and the relationship between artist and client is what guides both Stratoz and myself in our work. We respond to grief at times, when someone commissions art as a remembrance, a gesture of love and healing. Stratoz created a butterfly mandala in stained glass, commissioned by the friend of a couple that lost a child to cancer. There is sadness in such a request, and yet such care. This couple in turn commissioned a butterfly piece for another couple who lost triplets, carrying the hope for healing from their hearts to others.
Stratoz bought this amazing sheet of glass at the Youghiogheny Glass Factory in Western PA, and took this luminous photo before cutting it. Yes, he cut this beautiful thing. Some people just keep the sheets whole, like we discovered at the 401 Diner in Conshohocken. The hostess seated us in a booth by a sheet of glass that looked remarkably like ours, and which we had put on our business card.
In spite of the twinge, I was delighted to receive the scraps Stratoz created in the process of making his stained glass designs. The variation in color creates almost infinite possibilities. A fellow pinner on Pinterest, Christopher McCullough, pastoral leader, architect and stained glass artist, wanted to know what we used this beauty in, and that started me looking.
The Holy Spirit. descending as as dove, for a minister to wear with her robe.
A tribute to a client’s dear friend and mentor.
A gift for a Japanese hermit and artist.
For client’s who look at this every morning at breakfast and feel joy.
A door sign representing a significant place in the client’s life.
A welcome to the home of a lovely family.
Bought by a woman named Joy, who fell in love with it.
Most recently, some scraps turned into a treble clef.
Illumination is to throw into the light. I like the active tenor of this word. Working with glass has made me aware of the importance of illumination in bringing the work fully alive. Stratoz especially has challenges because he makes stained glass, and light is a kind of electricity that transforms the colors. This is his first night light, and the beauty of such an object is its purpose to bring light.
Stratoz made a set of “welcome home” starflowers, in the order of the rainbow, for our 5 neighbors across the street who suffered a rowhouse fire in March of 2010, and finally all back in June of 2011. We were both glad to see everyone home, after the scary evening when we woke up to screaming and smoke billowing from the house directly across from us. One man had to jump from an attic window, but has healed and is back to work. Over the course of a year, we watched the slow rebuilding, in fits and starts, from clearing out, to baking soda blasting the sooty bricks which made it look like a snowstorm in spring, to new windows, porches, doors. To have everyone back is a delight. And Stratoz’s imagination is a delight as well. I am always amazed by his creativity and when he told me he planned to make a starflower for each neighbor’s home, in rainbow order, from red-orange, to blue-violet, as a way to welcome everyone back, I was awed by the thoughtfulness of this gift. What house warming gift have your received that truly made you feel at home? What was your favorite gift to give as welcome?
Saturday it started to rain. We were at the Skippack Spring Fest, in our tent, and started gathering up my mosaics and Stratoz’s stained glass. We had some twinges of anxiety, but most people seemed to be leaving their tents, and we were tired, and the tent was soggy, so we headed home. We stopped at our favorite diner, West Main, in Lansdale for pie and coffee. Seated in a booth by the window, I looked over and saw a rainbow. I joked with Stratoz that it meant God would spare our tent.
The verse from Genesis 9 is one I remember learning at church camp, from the story of Noah’s ark, and God destroying the world by flood, but then putting the arc in the clouds as as sign of a covenant to never destroy all creatures by water again. This spoke to me, in the midst of being depressed as a 14 year old, flooded with sadness. The theme song of that summer was The Rainbow Connection, and even now I feel magic listening to it.
So here we were, on Saturday, looking at a rainbow, and my phone rings. The storm came through, and some tents were damaged and could we please come check to see how our tent fared. Stratoz dropped me off at home and headed back to Skippack. He called after finding it in a heap. Other tents were standing untouched but others were knocked over. I came out and together we were able to fold the frame up, and put it in the car. 5 trusses were bent or broken. Although exhausted, I felt gratitude that we were not in the tent when the storm came through, and our art wasn’t in the tent either, and that we can get replacement parts. Stratoz said I was his sweetie, and that made me happy in the midst of the damage. I’m not certain what to make of the rainbow at the diner. The tent was not spared. But we were.