Fired Up for Glass
At Mystical Reflections in Calabash, Judy Rodriguez, Lisa Bason and Felecia Blair practice the art of stained glass and share their passion with others.
Felecia Blair and mother-daughter pair Judy Rodriguez and Lisa Bason are as vibrant and artistic as the stained-glass artwork they produce at Mystical Reflections, their stained-glass shop in Calabash.
Originally just a hobby for the three glass enthusiasts, Mystical Reflections has grown into a professional stained-glass art studio, glass-supplies shop and artist gallery named Gallery 17. Blair, Bason and Rodriguez have all become crazily obsessed with stained glass in the six years they have owned the Calabash location. Artists of all ages and all skill levels come here to learn and practice the intricate process of creating traditional stained glass and trendy fused-glass art.
Rodriguez is the first person you meet when entering the shop. She started experimenting with stained glass in 2004 as a retirement hobby.
“My first project was an angel,” she says. “After taking that class I was hooked. It’s amazing to me that I could take a pattern and glass and turn it into something so beautiful. Each of my projects is special to me.”
Bason, who originally had absolutely no interest in stained glass, is the resident creative design artist. She attended Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina, learning commercial art design. Now she admits she’s caught the stained-glass bug, too.
“I get such joy out of creating a piece of stained-glass art,” Bason says. “It’s my Zen. When I’m busy on a project, I become lost in the process and lose all track of time.”
At the studio, Bason helps customers transform their ideas into art.
“I am inspired by my clients’ visions,” she says. “Sometimes they know exactly what they want and sometimes they only have an idea. It can be an abstract piece or something more specific.”
Since art will eventually hang in the client’s home, Bason ensures that it makes the client happy.
Blair is responsible for marketing and public relations. She too has become obsessed with the artform and uses stained-glass projects as a way to relax from her full-time corporate job.
Stained glass refers to colored glass and the art created from it. Blair explains it in simple terms: “It’s the glass seen in church windows and in sun catchers.” There is considerable symbolism behind the colors and patterns in stained glass. Blair adds, “Stained glass is a very old, almost lost art. It’s magical watching a piece of square glass change into something like a delightful hummingbird. The multiple pieces eventually fit together, just like a puzzle.”
There are multiple steps to creating stained glass art. It starts with choosing a pattern, picking colored or iridescent glass, tracing the pattern onto the glass and cutting out the pieces. Next comes grinding the rough edges so the pieces fit tightly together, wrapping in copper foil and covering with flux, soldering, polishing with patina and then final polishing.
“It takes a lot of practice to make a beautiful bead of solder,” Blair says. “And polishing can sometimes take an hour to achieve polished perfection.”
Fused glass, while similar to stained glass, does not require as much cutting of the glass and is more versatile. Blair says, “A round disk can end up as a truly functional piece like a plate or a bowl.”
Blair is currently experimenting with enamel painting, a combination of glass and paint that requires kiln firing. The shop has two kilns that reach more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Blair is designing sea life pendants. “Giving these pendants as gifts is immortality,” she says. “They can be handed down many times. I get a good, deep feeling from doing this type of piece.”
In January 2020 the artists moved to a new location, growing their studio from 1,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
“We started to get calls from people at the beach on vacation who wanted to take a stained-glass class,” Blair says. “But our space was too small. We were actually turning down business. Classes became a way to expand our business.”
The new location accommodates beginner, intermediate and advanced workshops in stained glass, lead glass, fused glass and mosaics. Beginners start with a project with three to five pieces. After two beginner classes, students are ready for intermediate work with either more curves or a larger piece.
The larger space also accommodates a supply store that carries all the tools necessary to get started, including grinders, glasscutters and soldering irons. And glass, of course, which comes in freight shipments of 50 pieces weighing an astonishing 500 to 700 pounds. The store offers art supplies and gift cards, both in-store and online.
Gallery 17 sells stained- and fused-glass art, jewelry, baskets, poured acrylic art, photography, folk art and pottery from more than 20 artists as well as pieces from each of the three owners.
“If you want a unique, locally crafted gift, we are the hidden gem,” Blair says.
She adds that the gallery has a small-town feel and is the place for artists to meet other artists and for customers to interact with artists. “We greet everyone,” she says. “Our customers are not just customers. We treat everyone like family.”
It’s easy to understand why Blair becomes emotional when she talks about Mystical Reflections during COVID-19.
“We appreciate the community’s business,” she says. “Without it, we would not be here. The generosity of strangers as well as our repeat customers is overwhelming.”
Smaller classes with social distancing, masks and cleaning protocols throughout the spacious facility have enabled workshops, Gallery 17 and the supply shop to continue to operate during the pandemic.
Blair concludes, “Come visit us. Take a class. Come see what it’s all about. You just might get fired up for glass.”
Want to go?
225 Koolabrew Drive NW, Calabash