BUCKSPORT — Dave and Lisa Roy feel a special connection to the brick building on Main Street that is home to both them and their stained glass creations.
It’s where they first got hooked on what Dave calls the “art and craft” of stained glass, when a different couple called the former Merrill Trust Co. branch home.
Years ago, Doug and Jeanne Robinson had a stained glass studio called The Old Bank at 55 Main St. The business was aptly named, given that the brick edifice was built as a bank in the early 20th century and housed the Merrill Trust Co. branch for decades.
The Roys lived in the area and often drove past The Old Bank with thoughts of stopping in. When they finally did, they learned the Robinsons offered classes and decided to take one — first Lisa, and then Dave.
Dave said signing up for a class became necessary for him once Lisa got hooked on working with glass.
“It got to the point where I had to take a class to spend time with her,” he said.
As both the Roys got more interested in stained glass, they began their own hobby enterprise. In 2006, they purchased a website for their business: Stubborn Cow Stained Glass.
Where did the name come from?
“It’s a term of endearment between the two of us,” Dave said.
For a time, Doug Robinson would send the Roys work that he couldn’t get to or wasn’t interested in doing. Eventually, he decided to close The Old Bank and sell the brick building.
“His business was going well,” said Lisa, “but he was tired of doing it. They had other interests.”
So the brick building sat for sale for a couple of years. The Roys, meanwhile, continued to operate out of their own home. One whole room was converted to a studio, but as their pursuit expanded it outgrew that space.
“Doug gave us really good deals on glass,” said Lisa. “We had a lot.”
“It was just taking over our house,” said Dave.
So last year the Roys decided to move into the bank building. Dave said it is a beautiful space to work in and that people find the atmosphere very welcoming.
The Roys said the timing was right for them to make the move, and they said the Robinsons — whom they still talk with regularly — were happy to know the building was going to people they knew.
“They said it was like leaving their building to family,” said Dave, who noted the Robinsons did a lot of restoration work to the building between 1999 and 2001.
Stubborn Cow Stained Glass opened its doors on Main Street in Bucksport last fall. Dave describes the studio as a “three-legged business”: commission work, making pieces for retail and offering supplies, tools and classes to customers.
Commission work is mostly for private homes. It can range from Tiffany lamps to panels for doors or windows. They have even made stained glass frames.
“It’s whatever people want,” Lisa said.
That philosophy applies to the retail products the Roys create, too. Those products range from sun-catchers for under $10 to Tiffany lamps that cost thousands of dollars (and which feature thousands of individual pieces of glass).
“We really want it to be accessible to everybody, and to have something for everybody,” Lisa said.
The Roys said teaching others how to make stained glass creations is one of their favorite things. They currently offer three different levels: basic and intermediate classes for making stained glass panels, as well as a general introductory class called “Maybe Stained Glass.”
The Roys credit Doug Robinson with the idea for the introductory class, and said it is how they both got started on stained glass. For $45, students can take two three-hour classes (all tools and materials included) and make a small sun-catcher.
“There’s no investment other than the class fee,” said Lisa.
Dave said working with stained glass requires a “fair amount of nimbleness and dexterity,” and said the introductory class allows people to decide whether it’s really for them or not.
“The last thing we want is for someone to come in for the six-week session, and then two weeks in say, ‘I don’t really like this,’” he explained.
Both of the Roys have other jobs by day. Stubborn Cow is open two nights a week and on weekends. Dave, an engineer by trade, says making stained glass is “all about techniques” and describes the process as “art meets carpentry.”
“The choice of glass is artistry,” he said. “Construction and craft is the rest.”
The Roys have a large assortment of glass in their studio. The types they use have unique names, including Uroboros, Bullseye, Wissmach and Youghiogheny. The latter is a hand-made, hand-rolled glass from Pennsylvania, named after a tributary of the Monongahela River.
Stained glass gets its color when metallic salts are added to glass. Cobalt is used for blue glass, gold creates pink glass and uranium is used to create orange.
Dave explained how a piece is created; starting with a pattern which is cut out, and then glass is cut to match the pattern.
“The closer you get it to the pattern, the smaller the lead lines are,” he said, referring to the soldered seams that hold the glass pieces together. “You can tell a good piece by the consistency of the lead lines.”
Lisa said the process for making stained glass lamps is an interesting one. A fiberglass mold is covered with wax, and pieces of glass are then stuck on the wax.
The glass pieces are soldered together the same way a panel would be, and then the wax is melted when the piece is finished.
“You pray when you pull it apart that you properly soldered it,” she said.
One of the first lamps Lisa worked on was an elaborate, Tiffany-style apple blossom lamp. Making it involved using 1,332 pieces of colored glass — blues, greens, and the delicate pinks of an apple blossom. Working on it off and on, it took her about three years to complete.
The Roys estimated that even if she had worked on it all day, every day, it would have taken three months to complete. Despite that kind of time commitment for large projects, the Roys said they enjoy making stained glass creations.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Lisa said.