Interview with Carlee, Carleeglass

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Carlee has lived in Phoenixville, PA, for about 25 years. Phoenixville is about 5 miles from Valley Forge National Historical Park and the area is mostly country, with a few small villages nearby. Carlee and her husband have been married for 54 wonderful years! They have 2 grown children and 3 grandsons, 9, 11, and 15. “They are practically perfect in every way!!!“, she says.

Carlee describes herself as a happy person who does not like to be idle. She loves jazz music, The Manhattan Transfer group, Harry Connick, and her grandchildren. Carlee says, “Most people don’t know that if I had it to do over, I would love to be a criminologist or a TV cameraman. Crime and lawyer type shows are my favorites.” Be sure to check out all her work at Carleeglass.

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How long have you been creating?

In the70’s my parents had a successful portrait studio. I worked there for many years until they retired.

How did you get started?

Stained glass began as a hobby for me. My dad got interested in it, as a hobby, and showed me some of the basics. That was WAY BACK in the 70’s.

With time on my hands after they retired, I took a few classes in the foil technique, and saw that folks would pay real money for my work.The whole process allows me to be creative with color and shape. I could get lost for days just working with glass. Nowadays, glass manufacturers are making beautiful, textured glass that seems to call to me to make something. I particularly like to work with the iridescents.

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What tools do you need to work with glass?

Stained glass can be an expensive hobby. Of course, glass, glass cutter, grinder, solder, metal came, copper foil, flux, and a good soldering iron are necessary tools. But, there are also many extras that are very helpful. I have a glass saw for those tricky cuts, and also a cutting board that helps me to make many cuts the same size. That is useful when crafting boxes. All the sides must be exactly the same width and length. Making the pattern is the easiest part.

Where do you get your materials?

I purchase most of my raw materials at Warner Stained Glass in Allentown, PA. Inspiration Stained Glass, in nearby Eagleville, is also another source for me.

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Can you tell us a little about your process?

The process from start to finish is not difficult once you have assembled the ingredients to produce your glass piece.

1. Choose object to be made and assemble the glass needed.

2. Cut out the pattern and transfer it to the glass. I use a Sharpy pen to trace the pattern to the glass.

3. Cut the glass.

4. Grind the edges of the glass to get rid of any burrs. Sometimes I have to grind the glass to make a good fit.

5. Assemble the glass pieces like a puzzle to make sure of the fit. The narrower the seam the better.

6. Using the proper width of copper foil, wrap the entire pieces of glass carefully so that the foil overlaps equally on each side of the glass.

7. Burnish the foil to make sure that it is attached tightly to the glass.

8. Lay the glass out again to check fit.

9. Keeping the glass tightly fit together, and using a small brush, apply flux to the copper foil.

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10. Using your hot soldering iron, carefully tack solder the pieces together. Soldering is the part that needed the most practice for me.

11. When both sides have been tacked, apply the solder in a fine, rounded seam. Sometimes you may want to flat solder the piece before applying the finished rounded seam.

12. When this step is complete, I wash the piece with a liquid that stops any mildew that may occur on the solder, then I thoroughly wash the entire piece.

13. The last step is to wax the work to give a nice sheen to the glass and the solder. Sometimes I add a metal patina finish to the work. Some craftsmen use a copper patina or a black patina depending on the use of the piece.

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How long does it take to make a piece?

The size of the panel, shade, or suncatcher, as well as the intricacy of the pattern, determine the time it takes to complete a work.

A medium sized lamp shade can be finished in about 8 hours. A small suncatcher may take 1 hour. My boxes usually take about 2 hours…but I often have several in the works at one time.

Do you have a work space/studio?

My basement serves as my studio. I have taken over every square foot, much to my husband’s amazement.

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Is this a hobby for you or a full-time job or something else?

Something that started as a hobby, has grown into a fun way to add to the family income. When not selling on Etsy, I take my work to local art festivals, and community art centers. Happily, the Valley Forge area is an active art community.

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Do you have a best seller?

My best sellers are my glass boxes. Most of them are one-of-a-kind. I design them as I go along. At Christmas, I make nativity sets that are very popular.

Do you have a favorite?

My personal favorites are boxes. I have a great deal of flexibility in decorating the lids…and they are fun to do.

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Do you do other crafts?

Scrapbooking is another favorite thing for me. We have traveled a lot, with hundreds of photos to be put in albums. I also have many, many photos of my kids from the old studio days with my parents. Since I don’t like to be idle, I am attracted to anything “artsy”.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In 5 years I expect to be teaching one of my grandkids how to solder a seam.

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Any advice for someone getting ready to start their own handcrafted business?

In the 1980’s I worked for Franklin Mint in their porcelain department. There I learned to pay attention to detail. Anyone who decides to take up handcrafts must pay attention to the finished work. I never sell anything that I am not 100% pleased with. It is also important to be service-minded. Folks can buy handcrafted items from many places, so I want to make their buying experience with me a pleasant one.

A tip I got from Etsy reminded me to make it a very good experience when my buyer opens the package. I put a handwritten note inside the package to express my thanks for the purchase, along with care instructions for the piece. When selling your work, especially at Etsy, be PATIENT!! It took about a month for anything to happen, but it finally took off. Christmas season was great. I was thrilled.

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