Winning ticket leads to a career

Glassblower buys studio after 11-year apprenticeship

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Most people quit their jobs after winning the lottery. For Erin Riley, a winning raffle ticket decided her fate.

The Winchester resident was involved in a summer reading program at the Handley Regional Library when her name was drawn in a contest and she won a free class in stained glassmaking from former Old Town Stained Glass owner Nancy DeVine. Ever since that moment 11 years ago, Riley, 21, trained under DeVine and served as her apprentice until buying the business this past September.

“I started out taking the basic classes and just never left,” Riley said.

Those classes included lessons in creating stained glass, glass mosaics, glass fusing and blown ornaments, each of which are still offered at the studio today.

“Glass is funny,” she said. “It has a mind of its own. Sometimes it likes the way that you’re cutting it and sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t really do any sharp turns and expect to keep the outer piece because it’s just gonna branch off.

“You just have to know how to work with it and get a general feel for it,” she added.

Riley works with churches to repair their stained glass windows as well as homeowners who have broken stained glass lamps and artworks. She said the studio, located on the Winchester pedestrian mall, is the only place for miles around that does such repairs and often attracts customers as far away as Washington, D.C.

“Everyone’s like closing down,” she said. “We’re like the last man standing, which is kind of a benefit for us, but also kind of nerve-wracking.”

One customer, Anissa Borsato, visited the shop to sign up her two children for a class so that they could make hand-blown Christmas presents for their relatives. She said she had recently completed a class in stained glass, where she cut glass into pieces and fit them into a Celtic Knot pattern.

“I was the only one [in the class], so it was pretty hands-on,” Borsato said. “You get to do everything. It was interesting, something I would do again.”

In addition to offering classes, the shop sells stained glass, glass ornaments, artworks and supplies. Nearly all of the glass at Old Town Stained Glass is handmade from the U.S.

Riley said DeVine had left the business to rejoin the rest of her family living in Florida, and that they had been talking about handing off the reins for the past year.

“She was ready to go back and retire,” Riley said. “They were talking about closing it down if she couldn’t sell it, so we just decided to go ahead and go for it.”

Riley has a family of her own. She works alongside her mother at the studio and also takes care of her 10-month-old son.

Where: 161 N. Loudoun St., Winchester
When: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, 12:30 to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $150 for stained glass classes, $75 for mosaic classes, $75 for blown ornament classes, $50 for fusing classes
Call: 540-667-9560
Online: oldtownstainedglass.com

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com