A Touch of Glass Design reflects crafter’s love for stained glass
Crafter basks in beauty of stained glass
LIGNITE – Working with glass is a delicate business, but Sandy Shefstad says there’s an enjoyment to it that more people should get to experience.
Shefstad, the owner of A Touch of Glass Design, Lignite, has been working with stained glass and other art glass projects for more than 10 years. She has been teaching glass art classes in Powers Lake at the invitation of the Hygge Hotel, where her handiwork also is seen in pieces throughout the restored, historic building.
“I guess I have an old soul. I have always liked old stained glass since I was a small child. My dad was in the Air Force, and so, lucky for us, we got to see Luxembourg, the beautiful churches and the different places in Europe,” she said.
Her family eventually returned to North Dakota and settled in Tioga. After her marriage, Shefstad moved to the Lignite area, where her husband of 36 years, Todd, grew up.
Never having lost her interest in stained glass, she one day bought a book on stained glass creation and began teaching herself. She discovered Margie’s Art Glass Studio in Minot and took a couple of classes. Her three daughters didn’t care for stained glass so Shefstad added mosaics to her glass work. Her daughters also persuaded her to try fused glass.
“But I still love stained glass. It’s my first love. It’s beautiful. You put so much into it – the way you put your colors together to make it pop,” Shefstad said.
Although some would disagree, she doesn’t consider her work a true art form.
“I see myself as a crafter,” she said.
She has enjoyed other crafts but none as much as stained glass.
“This is who I am,” she said. “I would love to get people interested in this craft, because I think it’s a dying one.”
People are more inclined to purchase items they want rather than handcraft them, which is unfortunate, she said.
“By doing a craft, you learn patience. You learn to put a piece of you into the craft. It’s a part of you. You can’t get that when you buy it,” she said. “To me, a handmade gift beats a store-bought gift.”
Shefstad has gifted many of her creations. She started showing at the Burke County Fair in 2010. Although she doesn’t do many vendor shows, she is a regular at the Divide County Threshing Bee.
In 2013, she set up shop in a former FEMA mobile home at her rural residence, moving her operations out of the basement of her house. The FEMA structure moved from St. John accommodates her kiln, supplies and finished works. She retired from her job as a customs broker, giving herself more time for her three grandchildren and her glass projects.
Shefstad also is known for her glass repair work.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with some of the pieces that people have brought me because the piece has meant so much to them,” she said. “That is such a wonderful feeling to think that there’s an heirloom that somebody’s been holding onto, not knowing what to do with it, and now it’s something that they can keep passing down because now you can use it. You can display it.”
Repair projects can be more difficult than new creations.
“Sometimes they’re very challenging. I love a challenge,” Shefstad said. Her first repair project was particularly challenging because the glass piece had so much breakage that she had to take it apart, redesign it and recreate with the re-cut pieces. Some customers have suggested she junk pieces if they aren’t reparable, but Shefstad said she will redesign a piece but never toss it.
“”I love to upcycle,” she said. “A lot of my repairs, to me, are upcycling.”
Inside her own home, Shefstad has few pieces of her work. Her glass projects typically find their way to the homes of others around the area and in other states.
“I like to see the looks on people’s faces when they buy them – that they like them as much as I do,” she said.
One piece Shefstad doesn’t plan to part with, though, is a stained glass design featuring tulips, created in remembrance of her mother. It was among her most enjoyable projects because of the memories it brought back.
“I don’t want to sell it. It means too much,” she said.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or call 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to email@example.com.)