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Finding passion in stained glass

Oak Creek man's job as apprentice helped him discover lifelong hobby and career

— Paul Carter Rutledge never expected a job working as an apprentice in a stained-glass shop in Kansas would lead him to his passion.

He never imagined he would spend a quarter of the year designing a single stained-glass piece. And he never thought he’d gush about the figures and other things he sees in his sheets of glass.

But decades after taking that first stained-glass job, Rutledge still spends his time and energy crafting stained-glass pieces.



“My intention was to never even do this job as a hobby. It was just a job back then, but I took to it like a duck to water,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge moved to the Yampa Valley in 1985 to continue making stained glass art because he “didn’t like the mountains in Kansas.”



Shortly after starting his own business, New Victoria Stained Glass, he moved to his place on Main Street in Oak Creek.

“I can’t say it’s been easy, but this work has always engrossed me. I never minded the tediousness or orneriness of it,” he said.

Rutledge creates his stained-glass pieces using a method called “came,” the name of the metal he uses to secure the cut pieces of glass together. The stained-glass method most people think of is the Tiffany method, he said. The Tiffany method uses a piece of copper foil to connect the glass pieces, which is much easier than the came method, he said.

To creating his pieces, Rut–ledge buys sheets of the “most beautiful glass” from retailers in Denver and then cuts the glass into the shapes he needs.

After he fits the glass into the metal, he solders it, cleans the edges and cements the glass.

“It’s really pretty difficult when you get into small details,” he said.

By definition, Rutledge said stained glass is glass that has had mineral salts added to it while the glass is melted and then rolled out into sheets, which gives the glass its color and texture.

Rutledge said the glass is not dyed or colored with anything but mineral salts.

Rutledge said the most rewarding aspect of his job is helping someone decide what kind of stained-glass art they want and helping them make an idea into a tangible product that will last hundreds of years.

“It’s behooving to create something for someone. I love to make things,” he said.

Rutledge said most of his work comes from custom orders, though he does keep some pieces on hand for shoppers.

“I always advise people to get what they want when they come into my store. The great things about working with glass is you can personalize it — it’s built for you,” he said.

Most recently, Rutledge said he finished a piece he calls “Ecce,” the Latin word for “behold.” It is a magnetic piece featuring a brilliant red hand holding an ivory and red oval-shaped piece of glass surrounded by fiery blue glass. Rutledge calls it a “viewer active” piece because it allows the viewer to decide what he or she wants to see in the piece.

“I don’t tell anyone what I see because I want you to see what you see,” he said. “If I told you I saw a skyscraper, that’s what you’d be looking for.”

Rutledge doesn’t keep regular business hours because he has no employees.

“It’s tough work. The elves have been on strike since Christmas. I haven’t seen Rump–lestiltskin in years. I do it all myself,” he joked.

“If people want to meet with me, they have to make an appointment,” he said.

Rutledge can be reached at 735-8322.

— To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com


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