By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Even during a drizzly February day, Gleam & Glimmer Stained Glass Studio is full of light.
It shines through the stained glass pieces in the front of the Webster Street shop, glances off mosaics and jewelry and lands on the works in progress in the studio area, where students can learn to create their own multi-colored art.
That’s exactly the way co-owner Suzanne Todaro likes it.
“I love glass,” she said with a smile. “I love the way the light comes through glass. It’s kind of magical when the sun goes through it and the color that comes through.
“It just make me happy.”
The studio is run by Colletta Harrower and Todaro, a mother-daughter duo who have been working together for 32 years, Todaro said. The pair ran an electronics business, Flo Go Systems Inc., for years, but the stained-glass business started about eight years ago after Harrower and her boyfriend, Vincent Nola, took a stained glass class at the University at Buffalo. (Todaro had already been working with stained glass for years after taking classes at a local lamp manufacturer.)
It stuck. In 2004, the trio opened up a shop on Niagara Falls Boulevard. In 2005, they started giving classes in the Remington Rand building on Sweeney Street in North Tonawanda.
In 2008, both facets of the business moved to a Vandervoort Street location ... but in 2009, tragedy struck with Nola’s death from lung cancer.
In a sort of fresh start, Harrower and Todaro moved the business into the store on Webster Street in 2010, just in time for Canal Fest.
“We closed the electronics business about a year ago and decided to go full time with stained glass,” Todaro said.
Gleam & Glimmer includes both the store — which sells finished glass pieces from wind chimes to lamp shades to jewelry and stained-glass supplies — and the studio, which features both classes for specific projects and workshop sessions that give people the opportunities to work on original creations. They also do repairs, custom glass work and offer plotting services with the shop’s composition software.
The classes and workshops give students the opportunity to use the studio’s equipment — including grinders (which can run $100 to $200 for an individual to purchase), cutters and soldering stations — and materials, including glass and a library of idea books.
“We have students from all walks of life,” Todaro said, who also teaches stained-glass community education classes through the Niagara-Wheatfield school district. “I have 13-year-olds coming in and doing lawn stakes and mosaics and then we have someone coming in who’s 88. We have quite a variety of people.”
Upcoming classes include items such as a wire wrap beaded stained glass necklace, a mosaic wine glass holder, an abstract sun or star ground stake and a glass fused pendant or earrings. On March 11, the studio will offer a copper enameled pendant class for $10, with all proceeds going the United Way of the Tonawandas.
Todaro said she loves sharing her own passion for the art form.
“I just like inspiring people,” she said. “I like getting them started, because it’s just so nice to see what they do.”
“It’s fascinating,” she said. “We had eight women come in and make a sun-catcher. It fascinates me that with eight women, it’s just that much different.”
During a recent stained glass workshop, a handful of students worked on projects under the golden gaze of Shadow, Gleam & Glimmer’s resident cat, and Dezi, their Havanese dog.
Sue Notaro of Buffalo has been taking classes at the studio since November 2010.
“I’ve learned a lot of patience,” she said. “I’ve never had much patience. And I’ve made some really good friends.”
Notaro, who was creating a pendant lamp out of orange-yellow glass, said she wasn’t looking for a new hobby when she first entered Gleam & Glimmer.
“I actually thought it was a antique shop ... and it wasn’t. And I left,” she said. “I came back for a class ... and found out I actually could do something.
“It made me believe I can do stuff. I don’t doubt myself. It just might take some time, but it’ll get done.”
Todaro said that Notaro has learned a lot. “She came here and she challenged herself ... and everything she comes up with is absolutely beautiful.”
Other students take their stained glass knowledge as an extension of another hobby. Pam Ball of Wheatfield started coming to the studio about four months ago with her mother, Rose Roth, 88.
“We were at Canal Fest and we came in just to see what they were,” she said while “laminating” one of her grandmother’s antique doilies between glass as a gift. “And we saw the classes. I’m a quilter, so I figured that this is just a new medium for me.”
Gwen Thomas of North Buffalo took a copper enameling class about six months ago — and hasn’t stopped.
“Then I continued on to another one,” she said. “And it turned into trying some stained glass. Now I keep trying other projects.
“It’s fun. It’s challenging and it’s not something you’re going to get bored with, because there’s just so much different stuff to do.”