Foodservice Manager at Chasco Elementary and Middle School
Pasco County School District
Land O’Lakes, Fla.
Born in: Pittsburgh
One daughter: Cassandra
Bev Lopata has always been a “craft-y” person, so when a friend asked her to help with a stained glass project, Lopata eagerly said yes. Here, Lopata talks to FSD about some of her more ambitious stained glass creations.
“I originally started making Tiffany lamps. First you have to decide what colors and what type of lamp you want to do. You make patterns. It’s easiest if you make a light box so you can see where you are. You draw it on there and you cut it. It’s usually easier to work with if you cut the glass in strips that are about the size of the pieces you are going to need. Then you cut each individual piece by hand with a hand glass cutter. Then you have to grind each piece with a diamond bit wet grinder.
There are a couple of different methods to doing stained glass. You can either do came (a lead divider bar used between pieces of glass) or copper foil. I do copper foil. It’s copper on one side and sticky on the other side, and you wrap each piece of glass with the tape. The copper foil comes in different widths. Then you have to take each piece and put them all together. It’s kind of like a puzzle. You solder them and then you have to go back and run a bead, where you have a raised line all the way around it. The reason I chose copper foil is that it’s a much stronger piece when you are done because each piece is soldered together. When you do came, those are metal sleeves that you put the glass in and you only tack each corner. So eventually the came stretches and spreads.
Usually when you are dealing with lamps you have a mold. If you are dealing with a rounded frame you have to have a mold that you lay those pieces in. You purchase the mold or you can make your own from Plaster of Paris if you have a pattern to follow.
Initially when I started I made things for family members. I enjoyed it so much that I got books. I started with little lamps and then moved to big lamps. When I would buy a book it would have 20 lamps in it and my goal was to make all 20 lamps. Then I would give them away as gifts.
I have a variety of books so I can show people what is available. You can make a square lamp
pretty simple in any way you want. The majority of lamps are round so there is a pattern to follow. People get to choose what colors they want, which makes a difference in the pricing. When you get into reds and oranges, that glass is much more expensive than a beige or a green.
The most intricate lamp I’ve done was a six-sided sailboat lamp. It had a sailboat, water and sun on every panel. It was a smaller lamp so that made it much more intricate trying to get all those curves on there.
I’ve made Christmas tree ornaments and sun catchers. I’ve done windows. I had a family member who had a big window in her bathroom that overlooked the garden. She wanted a window to match her wallpaper.
One of my principals commissioned me to do the school mascot in a window. It was about four feet by four feet. We are the mustangs so it was the mustang head. We built a light box for it because stained glass isn’t anything unless you have light behind it. It takes on a whole new meaning when the light hits it. It took me between 15 and 18 hours to make.
I get the glass from a stained glass store. Some arts and craft stores sell stained glass but it’s not high quality. When you go in they have sheets and sheets. You end up with a lot of scrap material so that’s how I made a lot of the little lamps. I find it a very calming thing. Some people have tried it and they don’t find it calming because it can be stressful. Of course you get cut.”