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Stained Glass Art Finds New Home In Community
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Local artist Cheryl Gartner does some detail work on a large stained glass piece featuring colorful koi, working in her Escalon shop. Marg Jackson/The Times

They both have ‘day jobs’ but creating stained glass art definitely takes up most of the free time for Escalon’s Cheryl Gartner and her husband Stephen Colbert.

Owning and operating Gartner Art Glass on California Street – previously the site of a longtime flower shop – Cheryl Gartner said she learned the “basics” of the stained glass craft from a previous husband.

“I lived in Texas and he taught me the basics,” Gartner explained. “I kept going with it (stained glass art) – just not with him.”

Now, Gartner has been a resident of Escalon for more than 10 years and with husband Stephen Colbert, runs the stained glass business out of the former flower shop at 1744 California. From small items that can be sold at open air markets and craft shows to large windows or art pieces done on commission, Gartner does much of the design work and together she and Colbert craft the pieces.

“I moved to Escalon in 1996, I was raised in the Fresno area,” Colbert explained.

With an uncle in Texas, Colbert met Gartner during a visit to that state. Eventually, the relationship grew and saw Gartner relocating to Escalon.

“I was single, he was single, I thought, California here I come,” Gartner said, chuckling.

They started the stained glass business in the studio location in early 2020, shortly before everything came to a virtual standstill due to the pandemic. They live close to the studio, right next door, and have gifted many of their neighbors with small pieces of artwork, including hanging several stained glass ‘bluebirds of happiness’ along their street.

While they were able to continue working on commissioned pieces during COVID, Gartner said her plan, with things opening back up, is to host some classes for those interested in the craft, as well as take part in festivals and fairs as the opportunities arise.

She previously helped out in the florist shop on California Street and didn’t take much convincing to take over the location when it became available.

A current piece the couple is working on, featuring colorful koi in a pond, is roughly 42 inches wide by 48 inches high and is a combination of the purchaser’s design and Gartner’s design.

“This is the biggest one we’ve ever done,” Gartner said.

It is exacting, sometimes tedious work, but rewarding as well.

“The best part is when you lift it up and see the light through it,” Gartner shared.

They cut the glass, form the pieces into the mosaic, solder every joint – on both sides – and then also seal and waterproof it.

Gartner’s portfolio of work features everything from a Sandhill crane to cowboys and Indians on horseback, dragons and more. Cost is based on several factors, such as size, intricacy, and the number of pieces of glass used. Gartner has also created jewelry and done sculpture.

“It’s a nice outlet,” she said of her art.

As far as the stained glass, she is happy that it is a project she and Colbert can work on together.

“He’s quality control,” Gartner said.

For their day jobs, Gartner works part time at UC Davis as a field lab tech at the extension office in Stockton; Colbert does field testing for a company that makes pesticides and does research and development for new products.

Gartner hopes to retire soon so she can focus more attention and energy on the stained glass business.

“The classes were another thing we were going to do but then COVID hit,” she explained. “I’ve got three classes lined up, starting at the end of June.”

Both added that the community has been receptive and supportive, even though there aren’t regular hours yet at the shop.

“We have a lot of people just pop in to say hi,” noted Gartner.

The work demands precision and it is something both said they enjoy doing, especially with the real sense of accomplishment they feel when a project is completed.

For more information, contact Gartner Art Glass at 512-308-5800.

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Using a light table, Stephen Colbert arranges some small pieces of glass to begin crafting a mosaic in the stained glass studio. Marg Jackson/The Times