Chepachet artist creates and teaches passion for stained glass

By Paul Lonardo

Artist Karyn Szaro, the owner of Holidaze Stained Glass – My Free Spirit, a retail store and stained glass studio located in Chepachet at 712 Putnam Pike, is living her dream.

Owning a stained glass studio is something Karyn always wanted to do. She has been involved in stained glass for 17 years, taking lessons from Nancy Chase, the former owner of the stained glass studio, for much of that time – right up until Chase decided to move to Florida in 2014.

With the Chepachet studio on the verge of closing its doors two years ago, Karyn found herself at a crossroads. Running her own business was something she found daunting as a creative person whose focus had always been her art, but she saw an opportunity that she could not let pass her by.

“I was at a point in my life,” Karyn says, “where I was ready to take a huge risk.”

Karyn describes herself as adventurous, an Aries with a lot of passion. The studio becoming available at that time was something she saw as fortuitous.

“It was the timing more than anything,” Karyn says. “Timing is everything in life. I knew then that if I don’t seize the day, carpe diem, as in the famous Latin saying, if I don’t do this right now, in this moment, this will never come by again.”

Karyn bought the business from Nancy Chase knowing full well that it was going to be a challenge, but she was also highly confident in herself, possessing a strong belief that she could do anything. Not having taught was another obstacle to overcome, but Karen quickly found that teaching was something she really loved.

“I never thought that I would love it as much as I do,” she says.

Karyn works with some 60 students right now, teaching them everything that she has learned about stained glass in six classes each week.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Karyn says, “with like-minded people coming together. There’s a real community feel. I’m being very sincere when I say this: it’s a place for people to escape. And have a good time.”

The demographic of people Karyn teaches ranges from young adult to seniors of both genders.

“There’s a great flow of energy here,” Karyn says. “People often tell me this when they walk through the door because of the positive space I created for people to explore and release their natural artist ability.”

Karyn has lived in northern Rhode Island for most of her life, attending RISD and Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. As an artist, her specialty is stained glass.

The term stained glass can refer to colored glass as a material or to works created from it. Throughout its 1,000-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches, mosques and other sacred buildings. Although traditionally made in flat panels and used as windows, the creations of modern stained glass artists also include three-dimensional structures and sculptures. As a material, stained glass is glass that has been colored by adding metallic salts during its manufacture. Stained glass, as an art and a craft, requires the artistic skill to conceive an appropriate and workable design, and the engineering skills to assemble the piece.

Karyn describes two basic methods, the one she teaches is referred to as the copper foil method, which was started by Tiffany and is the most used method in the United States. The glass is cut to a pattern, and is then wrapped around the edges with a sticky copper tape, which is then covered with a bead of solder before being polished. The other is the lead came method, which goes back to the medieval times and is more industrial, the kind seen in churches. In this method, the glass is cut to a pattern and then, instead of copper foil, lead came is used to join the pieces together. The pieces are cut to size and bent around the glass shapes. Each joint is soldered before the panel is cemented to make it strong and weatherproof, then polished.

At Holidaze Stained Glass people create a wide variety of art pieces, including small panels of favorite flowers or animals, lamps, incense burners, suncatchers and boxes. You name it; they make it here.

Karyn says, “Some of the people who come here have a lot of artistic ability and come from an art background. Others have a lot of untapped potential. And they all crave an outlet for their creativity, making beautiful pieces for their homes or to give as gifts to others.”

Whether you have experience working with stained glass or if you are a novice who wants to create a piece of art for someone in your family, Karyn is here at Holidaze Stained Glass- My Free Spirit to assist you.

“It’s a challenging art form,” Karyn says, “but I’m here to guide them to get their project to completion. I tell everyone, ‘there’s nothing you can’t do.’ It’s very rewarding and satisfying to finish a project in a two-week time period.”

On the retail side, Karyn does sell her art to the public in the studio showroom. She does commission work for companies and groups as well as charitable organizations that request certain pieces to commemorate different events. She also repairs stained glass.

“Probably the biggest part of my business is selling supplies to other stained glass artists,” Karyn says. “I have a huge selection of beautiful art glass from all over the region.”

Her background in customer service and in retail when she was younger aids her in developing this part of her business.

“Having past experiences like working in the visual designs department for Filene’s,” Karyn says, “I believe has enabled me to tap into people’s needs and really connect with them. When people come in as customers and we become friends, that’s really nice.”

Karyn has built up a loyal customer base over the last two years, but there is always room for more in her classes. If you are interested in learning more about what stained glass art is all about or want to create your own art visit Karyn at Holidaze Stained Glass – My Free Spirit at 712 Putnam Pike in Chepachet