El Paso Times (TX)
April 5, 2010
Stained-glass classes draw a following
Author: Pink Rivera El Paso Times
EL PASO — When Joanna Franco was laid off from her job of 20 years, she took it as an opportunity to change her life’s direction.
Soon her hobby of creating colorful glass works of art became her livelihood.
Franco, 51, said she was introduced to stained glass after her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago and she wanted to find something they could do together.
“I saw it as a way to get closer to her and spend some time together,” Franco said. “But she didn’t sign up, so I ended up just taking the class, and since day one I was hooked.
“I made my first piece and couldn’t get over the way the light shined and came through.”
Her first piece depicts green flowers in a pink frame. It hangs in her business window next to her “better pieces” as a reminder of the spark she first felt 11 years ago.
When she was laid off after 20 years of working at Dick Poe in 2008, Franco said, it was perfect timing to turn her garage hobby into a full-scale business. She also started teaching the craft to others.
“My mom was always happy when she did her crafts,” said Jeannette Negrete, Franco’s daughter. “When she was going to turn it into a business, I supported her because I know when she puts her mind and hard work into (something), there’s no stopping her.
“I’m proud of her now, especially since she’s a woman and it’s not easy for someone to open a business at a time like this.”
Franco and her students agree that creating stained-glass items is a therapeutic process, which helps them unwind and relax from their daily lives.
“I barely started to get into this and I make little projects, but there’s still so much to learn,” said Betty Marquez, 65.
She has been a student of Franco’s for two years.
“Nobody believes how important and how much time each of the pieces take. It really is like therapy because when you’re cutting the glass and putting the pieces together, you’re not thinking about anything else. It takes away your worries.”
Marquez said she has not sold any of her pieces. She has some at home and gives the rest to her four children and seven grandchildren.
Franco said there is a common misconception that stained glass involves painting as well, but it doesn’t.
“The glass is already stained a color, whatever color you want to order,” she said. “Then you cut pieces with a glass cutter, depending on your design, and solder them together. It takes time and patience and a lot of creativity.”
Her classes, which attract mostly women, take place at her workshop and store, Creative Expressions Stained Glass at 5660 El Paso Drive. Classes meet for two hours once a week for six weeks.
But Franco said it is not unusual for her classes to run a little longer as she and students become engaged in their work and in long conversations.
“Sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re doing that I can’t just shoosh them out because we’re just enjoying ourselves and doing what we like,” she said. “The most important thing is for them to have fun and enjoy what they’re doing. They all love it and keep coming back for more classes and supplies.”
Among the pieces popular with students and customers are crosses, angels, grapes, flowers and chiles — all of them with a lot of color.
“I used to do stained glass about 12 years ago and I recently started taking classes again with Joanna this year,” Jennie Valenzuela said. “I get a certain peacefulness and tranquility out of making my angels and crosses. I had to look up a place where I could do this, and I admire Joanna for her courage to go after what she really wanted to do and following her dream.”
What: Stained-glass classes.
When: Tuesdays or Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Where: Creative Expressions”Stained Glass, 5660 El Paso Drive.
Cost: $75 (plus tools and supplies)
Creative Expression Stained Glass is at 5660 El Paso Drive.
Copyright (c) 2010 El Paso Times, a MediaNews Group Newspaper
Pink Rivera may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6156.