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Encouraging environment

Oak Crest neighbors support each other in pursuit of new hobbies

Created date

February 26th, 2013

When passersby spot Ron Rafferty s stained glass artwork in the display case outside the woodshop at Oak Crest, many think it s the work of a seasoned artist. So it often comes as a surprise when they discover he s only been at it for a few months. I ve had people tell me what an artist I am, and I just laugh, says Ron, who lives at the Parkville Erickson Living community. I say, If I m an artist, then you ve never met one. Ron s interest in stained glass began after seeing the glasswork of artist and neighbor Tom Kleintank. I saw the stained glass window Tom has next to his front door, and it looks so beautiful, says Ron, a retired Baltimore County firefighter. I thought to myself, Boy, it would really be neat to learn how to do that. So I contacted Tom, and we got together. In about 20 minutes, he had showed me the basics.

Lifelong hobby

Tom got hooked on the hobby 40 years ago after his wife Joyce gave him the gift of six lessons at Great Panes Art Glass Studio, in Ellicott City, Md. He has been at it ever since. I brought my soldering iron, glass cutter, and other hand tools with me when we moved to Oak Crest, says Tom. I also joined the Oak Crest woodshop, which provides many tools and space for larger projects, as well as the opportunity to meet other craftsmen. One short lesson with Tom was all it took for Ron to hit the ground running. His first project: a glass panel of the Baltimore Ravens mascot. Tom made the pattern for me and helped me with the soldering, says Ron. I thought for sure I would end up with a big glob of glass with solder mixed with it. When we were through, I couldn t believe it actually turned out. Ron has since made and sold a number of the same glasswork now known as Rafferty s Raven, with each piece taking him anywhere from 16 to 20 hours to complete. I m still learning; it s really all just trial and error, says Ron. Slowly but surely, I m getting the hang of it. I can see an improvement from the very first attempt up until now. It s so helpful having someone like Tom, who has so much experience, there to help.

Sharing their gifts

Ron is one of hundreds of men and women who have learned a new hobby after moving to Oak Crest or discovered others who share the same interest. We have a lot of people here with terrific skills really unbelievable talent, says Ron. Most everybody is very friendly. If you ask them how to do something, they re happy to show you. I never thought I would be able to do this, but with Tom s help I ve come this far, and now I just keep experimenting. I ve already had some of the other men in the woodshop ask when I would start teaching them. Ron and Tom get together from time to time to discuss patterns, glass color and texture, and to review assembly techniques if they run into difficulty with a project. Ron is a very capable craftsman, and working with stained glass seems to be working well for him, says Tom. It is very satisfying to watch him excel in a hobby that I have enjoyed for so long. Ron s most recent glasswork was of another famous Baltimore sports icon, the Oriole bird. I got the pattern for the Oriole bird from a glass company, says Ron. I wasn t sure I would be able to do it because it had a lot of little pieces. But, to my surprise, it actually turned out nice. He s also tossing around the idea of doing a picture of a water wheel that he photographed on a trip to Virginia s Skyline Drive. There was this beautiful lake with a water wheel that I thought would really make a nice piece, says Ron. But I m a little worried I might be getting in over my head. I might try it just to see what happens. Tom says if you re interested in learning how to do stained glass, it s important to choose a reasonable project and something you re interested in. Get some initial instruction, and start making mistakes, says Tom. It s amazing how many wrong ways there are to do a project, each with its own consequences, but each mistake is a lesson learned.