Couple is preserving the art of stained glass
Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013

Couple is preserving the art of stained glass

  • Want to go?

    The Art Glass Works Studio, 20850 Catawba Ave. in Cornelius, is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. To visit or enroll for classes, call 704-892-5995, email or visit

The one-story brick building at the southwest corner of Catawba Avenue and Smith Circle in Cornelius looks plain from the outside.

But step inside the building, which houses the Art Glass Works Studio, and you know you have found something special.

The space is where Alan and Lisa Coyle not only offer dozens of unique works of stained-glass art for sale but conduct lessons for those interested in learning the specialized art of working with stained glass.

“We personally design every piece we build, and we make them to last 100 years or more,” said Alan Coyle. “We also try and never make the same piece twice. I always try to change something, so it is completely unique.”

Alan Coyle, 66, an Indiana native, began learning his trade while he worked for PPG Industries, a worldwide coatings and specialty products company with headquarters in Pittsburgh. At PPG, he developed solid-state glass welding, learned the effect of various temperatures on glass and the importance of precision control, and designed controls for robotic fabrication of glass-insulated units.

His work took him to Germany, where he spent free time learning glass techniques from European glass facilities.

Beginning in 1980, Coyle perfected his abilities at the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co. in Indiana, the oldest stained-glass company in the United States.

“My time in Europe, as well as what I learned at KOG, allowed me to develop techniques for making such items as 3-D buildings and nonmolded 3-D sports and human images.”

Their hands-on experience with hot glass gives the Coyles a head start in creating detailed products. Lisa, 58, also originally from Indiana, adds a feminine approach that enhances the overall design.

Their studio, which opened in 1999, boasts an eclectic mix of stained-glass products in all sizes, from small Christmas ornaments to 4-foot murals. Most of the work they do is the result of people who come in and request a specific glass piece unique to their own needs, often as a gift. The Coyles are only too happy to oblige.

Their most unusual works included two beer panels for a customer’s private bar, creating two panels for another customer to place on an outside deck to hide a neighbor’s house, and creating shutters for a lakeside house.

They also are anxious to demonstrate their trade to novices. Classes, which usually run in eight-week sessions, are conducted in the shop area weekly. Each class comes with the specially designed tools needed to work with the glass, and materials are provided for the first project.

“I’ve been a student in their classes for over seven years and still find each lesson unique and educational,” said Nancy Jackson, 74, of Cornelius. “From the techniques they have taught me, I’ve been able to do a good number of projects for my friends and family. It’s a very rewarding hands-on experience.”

Between the projects they do and the classes they conduct, the Coyles are hoping to revitalize local interest in stained-glass work, which Alan Coyle describes as a dying art, primarily due to the time commitment.

“Working with stained glass is truly an art, not a hobby or craft,” he said. “It's not something that you are going to learn to do in a one- to two-hour setting.

“Becoming good takes years of practice.”

Dave Vieser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Dave? Email him at

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