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Broken and Stained Glass

by Janelle Polcyn 4 months ago in Short Story
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Taking something broken and turning it into something beautiful

The glass in Shane’s studio doesn’t come in sheets from art stores, but in colorful vases and bowls from thrift stores and dumpsters. Every piece that comes into his home is admired for its special qualities. The most recent piece was a tall, cobalt blue vase that cast a deep and wonderful hue against the wall when the sun shined down on it. The green shards on the table in the art studio were once a wide bowl of a vase with little bumps and grooves that refracted the light in unpredictable and beautiful ways. They were all beautiful when he picked them up and brought them home. He never brought home a vase he didn’t like for one reason or another.

Each piece of glass tells a secondary story pieced together with black solder and colorful spaces in between.

Shane holds the soldering gun with steady hands, tracing each line as the pieces are melded together and eventually form a recognizable image. His windows decorate homes, identifying sanctuaries of peace and loveliness, where glass artwork can hang without threat of destruction.

He picks up a sharp yellow piece. In a flicker of a reflection, he can still see where it had been smashed. He touches his cheek and, with shaky hands, sets the piece down in the midst of the blue he’s been arranging. He searches through the other colors, vibrant yet translucent pinks and yellows next to dull browns and greys. The shards all over the table look like trash to the untrained eye, mere remnants of the vessels that held the true artwork, but Shane takes the ugly pieces and finds the beauty in them, outside of them, and inherent to their nature. Each piece started as mere sand before being melted into a liquid state. The glass was forged under high heat to just below its breaking point and given life and color.

An angry woman prone to fits of rage that included tossing anything breakable within reach did not change what the glass pieces were and would become under Shane's skilled hands.

Did you know, glass is considered an endlessly recyclable resource that gets better instead of worse? When glass is first put through the fire, it retains air pockets, flaws invisible to the eye. But if glass is broken up and fired again, it has fewer air pockets and is stronger than before.

After deciding he had enough of each color and the right shapes and sizes to form his picture, Shane set to work drawing the outlines, which is normally the first step in the process for a typical stained glass craftsman. He skips the breaking portion, his wife handles that part beforehand. Then he cuts away the sharp, uneven edges because sometimes a broken thing needs to be broken further to find its true form. He lines each piece with lead and goes back over with the soldering iron.

Once he’s finished glazing and the lead secures each piece to its neighbor, he picks up the whole piece and admires it. The broken pieces destined for the trash have become a new piece of art. He takes a picture and quickly lists it on an artist’s website where the payments are linked to a private account. One day, he will see how much he has and he will take his studio somewhere new.

After hours in the studio, when he’s sure his wife is fast asleep, he puts away his tools and tiptoes into bed, checking first to see if any of his vases or bowls have become supplies for a new art project.

Short Story

About the author

Janelle Polcyn

Writing is where I can think, but also where I can shut my brain off and just let the world disappear and the story consume me. Personal anecdotes, long-form fiction, micro-fiction, and things that make me smile.

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