Howard Lake Herald, September 7, 1998

HL woman making stained glass windows for St. James School


This is a labor of love for Shirley Klammer, and it reflects in the concentration she shows as she fashions another piece of glass for the stained glass window she is working on.

One of two huge, identical, round windows, this is the last half she is completing today.

Klammer will donate the two windows to St. James Lutheran School for the east and west ends of the new gym.

She said she wants to give back something to the school, since she and husband Ken and all their children have gone to the school over the years.

In her basement workshop, Klammer cuts the glass to fit each section of the pattern she has chosen - Martin Luther's seal.

Luther wrote that a black cross is in the center to put him "in mind that faith in Christ crucified saves us."

The cross is in the middle of a red heart and according to Luther, "it does not change the color of the heart, does not destroy nature."

The heart is in the center of a white rose, "to show that faith causes joy, consolation, and peace. The rose is white, not red, because white is the ideal color of all angels and blessed spirits."

A sky-colored ground surrounds the rose, "to denote that such joy of faith in the spirit is but an earnest and beginning of heavenly joy to come, as anticipated and held by hope, though not yet revealed."

Around the picture is a golden ring, "to signify that such bliss in heaven is endless, and more precious than all joys and treasures."

Horseshoe nails, driven lightly into the wood worktop, hold the strips of soft H lead against the edges of newly cut glass.

Most of her materials come from Suzanne's Stained Glass in Buffalo, where Klammer used to work.

"She has been very helpful for me," Klammer said.

Is it hard to do?

"Well, you have to have a good eye to follow the pattern and grind off the high spots in the fitting process," she said.

Fussy, she goes again and again to her water grinder to make a piece fit perfectly.

"On the old stained glass windows, the edges are rough and the lead was used to cover up the bad spots," explained Klammer.

As a matter of fact, some of the old glass from St. James' bell tower is recycled in these new windows, she said.

When Klammer took an adult education class from Tom Nelson about 15 years ago, she never thought she would ever be doing something like this.

"It was one of those things. I just liked it," she said.

It started out as just a hobby, then she worked for Suzanne's for about three years.

She made lots of lamps with stained glass shades, but there was too much stress, working at the same thing every day, all day, she said.

She made draperies for people for years, and she said working with the glass certainly isn't like working with fabric. There isn't any give to it, said Klammer.

One thing has stretch, though, and that is the lead. It comes in six-foot pieces, and her husband, Ken stretches them for her to make them straight.

A pistol-grip glass cutter, that is self-oiling, is used to cut out a pattern piece that has been adhered to a piece of glass with a glue stick.

Klammer finishes one piece of glass, then heads for her fully-stocked box of Band-Aids to cover yet another cut on her hand.

"I go through a lot of them," she said.

Working the lead strips with her bare hands means that she has to get her blood checked for lead content when she finishes this job.

"Up to now, I've been fine," said Klammer.

Then, back she goes to the grinder to take off that last high spot on the large chunk of glass she is fitting.

The next piece is ready to be cut, and Klammer searches for her cutter.

"I wear a tool apron, because I'm always losing my tools, but I never put anything in it," she said.

She explains that the glass has a grain, and each color needs to go the same direction throughout the window.

"I'm going to sign the windows somewhere, so in 100 years, when someone tears them down, at least they will know who made them," stated Klammer.

As she puts the finishing touches on this last piece, Shirley said she started the windows July 10.

"I haven't hardly been out of the basement this summer," she said.

"I got to go golfing recently, and I don't know when I've enjoyed it so much," she said.

She will have about 140 hours of labor into the windows when they are complete.

"When this is done, I'm not going back into the basement for a very long time," she said.

She is looking forward to her yearly "tired housewives" golf vacation soon, shortly after the windows are safely in place at St. James School.

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