Vocation in Avocation: Stained-Glass Art
By AJ Keith, Communications intern
Sometimes the most beautiful works of art are easy to see through. Such is the case with stained-glass creations that can change the rays of the sun into a myriad of colors, but few question how they are made. Sister of Charity Mary Beth Orr, after discovering the art form through her friends, has begun a class in which students can craft their own stained-glass creations. Through this class, S. Mary Beth was able to create a sense of community and balance like the one that taught her how to make stained glass in the first place.
Mary Beth attributes her artistic impulse to having a creative mother who painted china. Because of this, she has always considered herself “artsy,” and often found that without a project or hobby, she would become restless. She first became interested in stained-glass work 30 years ago in order to make personalized gifts, but she never had the equipment or space to hone her craft. Working alongside acquaintances Diann and Steve Cottrill, she was finally able to pursue her pastime and made new friends in the process. They would meet each Wednesday night for dinner in Miamitown, Ohio, then they would begin to work in the shop, something that affectionately referred to as, “playing.”
According to S. Mary Beth, Mrs. Cottrill was an artist with a “knack” for using color combinations while the late Mr. Cottrill was a “natural” at sketching a layout for a new project. The couple was considerate to the people who wanted to use their resources, even making certain tools available to their customers. “They were especially gracious because they let us use their more expensive equipment, which is out of reach for many people,” S. Mary Beth says.
After the death of Mr. Cottrill, the shop was closed and S. Mary Beth had a difficult time finding the resources and space to continue her art. With the approval of SC Leadership, S. Mary Beth opened a shop in the basement of Seton Hall at the Motherhouse and began a stained glass class that is open to the public. Since this class has been established, she has been able to create gifts for all of her loved ones.
Her list of projects is estimated to be in the hundreds, as she has made a plethora of different items for her friends and family. She is still branching out to new endeavors and projects like fusing glass, but thinks that stained-glass work will be her primary focus because of its ability to relax her and make her aim her attention elsewhere. “I like keeping my hands busy and doing something meaningful,” she says.
Mary Beth states that this class is open to whomever is potentially interested in the activity, as there is no skill level required, and that she is flexible with her hours. She currently has a group of four or five people that meet every Thursday morning, but she is happy to adapt to the schedules of the participants. She hopes to encourage others to join the, “community that laughs and creates,” she says.
One member of this community is Associate Kathy Vogelpohl, who regularly attends the class and creates an assortment of different items. Much like S. Mary Beth, Kathy uses her newfound skill to create gifts for her friends and family. Often overwhelmed from work, she is happy to spend time away from the stresses of her life to create with her friends in the class. Kathy has been a part of the class for more than a year now after discovering a piece created by S. Mary Beth in the Motherhouse Gift Shop. After attending a few classes, Kathy quickly realized the skill S. Mary Beth possesses for the art and teaching others how to develop their own techniques. However, Kathy mostly appreciates the tight-knit community that has gathered for the class, which can be heard filling the halls with laughter during each Thursday morning. Specifically, Kathy appreciates the diverse group including Sisters, Associates and, as of last week, neighborhood participants who form a fun community. “All of us respect our time together,” Kathy says. “There’s a strong sense of sharing and openness to suggestions.”
Since she began making stained-glass pieces, S. Mary Beth has found new ways to contribute to her community by donating some of her items to various institutions and charities. She keeps the memory alive of Mr. Cottrill through her work and hopes that she can reciprocate the sense of community that she felt with her mentors while maintaining a sense of balance within herself.