Bernie Evans pursues stained glass to encourage community creativity
By Paige Bennett
New Beginnings Bernie & Max Stained Glass is a studio in Chillicothe, run by former factory worker-turned-artist Bernie Evans. During a medical leave from his 28-year career at the local paper mill, Evans found a passion in stained glass, and knew he had an aspiration to pursue.
Evans left the paper mill in 2005 for two and a half years. After the wait, he was cleared to go back to work, where he stayed for only six months before deciding to open a specialized artstudio.
“I decided I wasn’t going to spend my life in the paper mill, so I started Bernie & Max Stained Glass Studio,” he says.
The art of stained glass is millennia old, believed to date back to the first century, according to the Stained Glass Association of America. But in recent decades, Evans says the art has lost its popularity, until now.
“It has started making a resurgence, and I thought, ‘You know, with there not being anything around Chillicothe as far as stained glass goes, people would be interested in trying to pursue the arts,’” Evans says.“They were very receptive.”
A Welcoming Space
A room with wooden tables covered in glass bits and pieces welcomes students new and old. One student, Pam Hatton, enjoys the classes so much that she now works for Evans at the studio.
“I took all of the classes: the beginner’s class, the intermediate, the fused glass, and once I took them all, I kept coming to the studio,” Hatton says. “I came every day. I never left. Now I work here and I teach the fused glass class, where students can make coasters and sun catchers.”
Bernie & Max Stained Glass creates a space where community members can safely create their own masterpieces and for an affordable price.
In founding the studio, Evans hoped he could teach others to make stained glass without the trials and tribulations he went through when learning on his own.
“I enjoy passing on the information to people, so they don’t have to learn by trial and error like I did,” Evans says. “There was a lot of glass-breaking and a lot of projects that didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to.”
Let the Light In
Evans’ passion for the art shines as he holds a sheet of deep blue and bright red marbled glass to the light.
“This is why I do it,” he says. “People just see the colors, but stained glass is really alive. You can see it one way, and then with light behind it, it changes. That’s what I love about glass. The colors, textures—it’s amazing. It changed how I see everything.”
The customers notice Evans’ passion for the art, and they appreciate it.
“Bernie is a great teacher,” Kim Ervin, a customer from Parkersburg, West Virginia area, says.“He took us downstairs and showed us where he worked and what he was working on at the time. He’s a wealth of information.”
Family Ties Although Evans does put his heart into the studio and the art, there is someone else who invested a lot of time as well. He points to the corner of the room where his mother used to work.
A beautifully-crafted lampshade and a piece of stained glass in the shape of a keyboard with delicate glass musical notes hanging from the keys suspends over her former workspace.
“She was an integral part from the very beginning of Bernie & Max,” Evans says. “She passed away a year ago. She worked every day at 85 years old.”
He points again, this time to the rows of vibrant trinkets and knick-knacks in the shop.
“She probably made 50 to 60 percent of the stuff in the shop,” he says. “I can’t talk about the studio without mentioning Mom.”
The glass on display for customers twinkles in every imaginable color. A sketch lies on the wooden work table, creating a complex design of what will soon be a stained glass masterpiece,made with Evans’ own hands and heart.
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