A window into the world of making stained glass

Nine years ago, Nikki Rohrs’ birthday present from her husband was lessons in making stained glass windows. The couple were living in California then, and Nikki had located Stained Glass of Marin, near their home.

“I always thought it’d be fun to do,” she said.

Nine years later, one of Columbus’ newest residents has made a gift for her church: a stained glass window that covers the entire front pane of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Double Churches Road. Measuring 6x8 feet, the window will be dedicated during the 10:30 a.m. service Sunday.

Like most stained glass in a worship space, this window has a message. It depicts the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association, according to its Web site:

--The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

--Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

--Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

--A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

--The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

--The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

--Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

A job relocation brought Chris and Nikki Rohrs to town last December. Chris Rohrs told his wife if he’d ever joined a church, it’d be Unitarian. So when they started attending the local fellowship, Nikki thought about adding some stained glass to the room, which is basically beige in color. She initially thought of getting each family in the church to design a piece of the glass, to form a sort of windowed quilt. But “if someone didn’t know what they were doing, it’d be really difficult,” she said.

Nikki Rohrs did have help, though. A church member named Nancy Awtry said she’d like to learn the craft. So she became Rohrs’ apprentice. Rohrs began designing the window this past spring, on a sheet of graph paper. It was all hand-traced to make the pattern. Then she numbered it into sections. The first section is a red flame at the bottom.

“I did the flame first because I didn’t have that much of it,” she said of that particular glass, which Rohrs found to be discontinued.

The two friends worked on the window in Rohrs’ garage, through the heat of the summer, but trying to get most of their work done in the mornings. Awtry, who also dyes wool for making rugs, said she’s going to keep practicing her new hobby.

The entire window contains nearly 400 pieces of glass.

Creating a project like this takes many steps, an important one being breaking the glass. “It’s not as fragile as you might think,” Rohrs said. “A lot of people have a fear of using their hands with it, or using a cutting tool.” She said she’s had minimal cuts over these nearly 10 years of making stained glass.

This is her largest piece to date. A non-commissioned piece, Rohrs and her husband have donated it to their church. It was put in earlier this month.

“It’s made so anybody could walk in and understand it,” Rohrs said.

Every 17 inches, there’s steel rebar. “It will move, so we had to strengthen it with the rebar,” she said.

The podium, from which services are led, is directly opposite the window. Even on a cloudy day, the otherwise plain interior becomes brighter when one turns to face the window.

“It does bring a certain warmth to the room,” Rohrs said.