Owner Peter Romano
This article was first published on Patch.
If you happen to be lucky enough to live in a brownstone, especially one that's been renovated within the past 35 years, take a look around and see if you can find any stained glass. There's a good chance that what you find might not be original, but a reproduction hand-made in the traditional style by master craftsman Peter Romano, who singlehandedly runs The Stained Glass Store, on Fifth Avenue between First and Second Streets.
"The most pride I get is when I walk back into a house I did 20 years ago and the current owners don't even realize that the stained glass came from me," he said. "If my work is done well, then you won't even know that I've done it."
Romano, who grew up on the Flatbush side of Prospect Park and attended Manual Training High School (now John Jay), was first introduced to stained glass not by exposure to the great churches of Europe, but by his cousin, who took it up as a craft and showed him the ropes as a youngster. He's nearly completely self taught, and opened up his first shop, on Sixth Avenue and Union Street, in 1976 (maternity shop Boing Boing is there now; ever wonder about its great stained glass entryway?).
The current location is the store's fourth; he moved into the space thirteen years ago "when Fifth Avenue was Dodge City," he said. Clients range from contractors to to architects to interior designers, and while he likes to work primarily for Park Slope brownstones, his work has been commissioned all over the country, and he's even created glass for homes in the Carribean and a Methodist church in Lagos, Nigeria.
The tools of the trade
Romano realizes that there aren't too many craftsmen around anymore, working with their hands. "It's a shame," he said. "With today's technology, everybody just sits around looking at screens all day. A lot of people do this as a hobby, but very few of us do it as a profession, and do it well."
So how does Romano go about crafting these stained glass windows? The same way it's been done for hundreds of years, using only the simplest of tools. "I start off with an idea, and then I draw a pattern," he elaborated. "I'll either use the lead came technique, which is used in the churches in Europe, or the copper foil method, which is what was used by Louis Comfort Tiffany." Essentially, large colored glass sheets are cut down by hand and soldered into the template (Wikipedia goes into much more detail). The end result is rarely short of spectacular.
Workshops like the Stained Glass Store are reminders that the finest products are the ones that are made by hand instead of by machines. And we should be thankful that Park Slope still has a couple workshops like the Stained Glass store, and a couple resident master craftsmen like Peter Romano.
Stained Glass Store, 300 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-768-7964.