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By Paul Lonardo
Christopher Foster Glassworks is an artist-owned studio located in Lincoln that specializes in repairing and creating stained glass, as well as teaching stained glass design, both for beginners as well as more advanced students who need guidance with their own ongoing projects.
This is certainly no fly-by-night business venture. Christopher is an established, dedicated artisan of his craft, and he has been fabricating stained glass for more than fifty years.
Originally from Mount Vernon, New York, Christopher grew up in Port Washington, Long Island. He had an interest in the arts early in his life. After graduating from high school, he studied drawing and painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, Switzerland. Upon returning home, he studied at the Art Students League in New York, and later at the Boston Museum School. He worked at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but his interest in stained glass came about suddenly and quite unexpectedly.
It was the early 1960’s, and Christopher was working in the advertising field, a profession to which he did not aspire, nor like very much. But it paid the bills. Then, on his way to work one day he was walking to the subway when he passed by a little shop that made stained glass and was immediately interested. The artist in him was struck by the beauty and creativity of the material being worked with, and he soon began experimenting, trying his hand at the craft. Losing his advertising job a short time later turned out to be just what he needed to take the next step and pursue the burgeoning passion he had developed for working with stained glass.
“I would be on a bus,” Christopher says, “and when I would see an antique shop, I’d get off the bus at the next stop and go inside the shop to ask the owner if he had any stained glass that needed to be repaired.”
This approach didn’t get him much work, but it was a start. Chris said those early efforts “got his name out there,” and led to his first commissioned works.
What began as simple curiosity, soon developed into a hobby for Christopher, and within two years it became a full time profession as he was able to establish his first studio in New York. A steady flow of commission work kept the doors of his studio open and allowed him to hone his skills. When he moved to Connecticut in 1970, he specialized in making stained glass lamps, which were very popular in that era. By the end of the decade, he moved to Rhode Island, relocating to Warren, then Newport.
“At that time the market started to become saturated with the kind of lamps I was making,” Christopher says. “And that was the beginning of a downturn.”
The lamps were being mass produced overseas, and being sold at much lower price. Christopher could not compete.
“When that change hit, I went back to doing restoration work,” Christopher says.
He quickly established a reputation as a fine stained glass artist, dividing his time between creating new windows and restoring old ones. Many of the restorations were in important historic buildings, as well as a number of large scale works in churches, businesses and private homes. Christopher has always taken great pride in personally designing every work of stained glass that comes from his studio. All his works are fabricated using traditional tools and the finest materials.
In 1992, he relocated to a studio in Providence, and in 2003 he purchased a mill in Lincoln, where his business continues to thrive. Christopher participates as a vendor in an annual fine arts show and also sells his artwork on Etsy, the ecommerce website that focuses on handmade products and artistic works, but his work remains largely commission-based rather than a retail business.
Christopher really enjoys working with other people and helping them discover their own passion and love for working with stained glass. He holds classes every Thursday evening in his studio at 27 Carrington Street in Lincoln from 6:30pm to 9:30 pm. So come on in and check it out. Christopher cannot guarantee that you won’t get hooked on stained glass and become a hobbyist yourself.
For more information call 401-721-0761 or visit his website at www.christopherfosterglassworks.org, facebook page at www.facebook.com/Christopher-Foster-Glassworks-171568952950316/ or etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/cfosterglassworks.
– UPCOMING EVENTS –
Ocean State Artisans
Holiday Craft Festival
November 24 – 25
CCRI, Warwick campus
Art Providence Holiday Show December 9 – 10
RI Convention Center
22 November 2017