Across the Pioneer Valley, countless old mill buildings dotting the landscape. Reminders of a bygone industrial era, these buildings have been repurposed rather than demolished.  

Western Mass is home to one of these repurposed mills: Eastworks. Located in Easthampton, Eastworks is home to artists, including Dragonfly Stained Glass Studio.  

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan stopped by Dragonfly recently for a beginner’s class in making stained glass sun catchers. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Across the Pioneer Valley, there are countless old mill buildings dotting the landscape as reminders of a bygone industrial era that have been repurposed rather than demolished.

Such is the case with the Eastworks building in Easthampton, which is now home to several artists, including Dragonfly Stained Glass Studio.

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan stopped by there recently for a beginner’s class in making stained glass suncatchers.

Brian Sullivan: On a Friday morning in November, in a room that made me feel as though I’d been transported back to my high school art class, students are intently focused on the task at hand.

The task? Making stained glass sun catchers, of course.

Instructor Heather McLean patrols the room with a Ben Kenobi-like calming presence. Which is helpful because, as nice to look at as these works of art may be, making them can be a tedious and frustrating process, especially in a beginner class like this one.

And if there’s anyone in the room who understands this, it would be her.

Heather McLean, Dragonfly Stained Glass Studio: Almost thirty five years ago, I was gifted some stained glass equipment and a book, and I tried to do stained glass, and it was really frustrating. And so, I took a class.

And that just solidified everything for me. And after that, I continued doing stained glass, and then some friends wanted me to teach them. And I actually have a background, I’m a Montessori teacher, as well.

So, the two skills kind of went right together and I’ve been teaching and doing custom work. And in 2013, I opened Dragonfly Stained Glass Studio.

Brian Sullivan: Classes like these tend to draw an audience from about five town radius. So, here at Easthampton, that could be as far as Westfield and as close as Northampton.

Of course, there will always be the chance for an outlier candidate coming in from as far as, say, Stockbridge.

Michael Bolognino, Art Student: I’m on leave from work, about five months. And as part of my leave, I promised myself I’d learn something new.  And stained glass is something that’s super interesting to me.

I traveled to Spain earlier this year to the Sagrada Familia, and that has the most incredible stained glass I’ve ever seen. So, that kind of clued me in to take this class, and I found this by Googling it. It was the closest one to my house in the Berkshires.

Brian Sullivan: Carey Marshall may be here as a first time student for stained glass art, but is no stranger to the world of arts and crafts.

This class served as a chance for her to not only try her hand at another art medium, but to bring something back of sentimental value as well.

Carey Marshall, Art Student: I didn’t really know what to expect coming in, and like how it was going to run or anything like that, but so far it’s been amazing. I really like it here.

I actually wanted to make this piece for my grandmother for Christmas. She’s always supported me through my art, like, she still keeps all my artwork from when I was like six hanging up.

So, whenever I expand to new crafts, I like to give her my first.

Brian Sullivan: The one person in class with no real art experience to speak of — just the love of stained glass that she got after being captivated by its beauty once in a trip across Europe — was also the one person who was a little more advanced in her project than the other students.

That’s because, thanks to some thoughtful friends and family, this was her second class.

Kathy Kurtz, Art Student: I received this as a retirement present from my daughter and then also, received it from my three best friends, who knew I had always wanted to do this. So, I was able to take two classes, because I received two gift certificates.

And so, I was here a month ago, and started a bigger project than you normally would start in just a one day class. And today I’m finishing my project.

Brian Sullivan: While the suncatchers on the window may serve as motivation for the class, they probably can’t be seen from the outside because this is on the ground floor of the Eastworks complex.

And for those who haven’t come out this way for the RMV, this place is really neat.

Any time I get a chance to come to one of these old mill buildings, it’s always a bit of a nostalgic experience, even more so in this case with the workshop located here on the bottom floor. As an added bonus, I can get some extra cardio in, because the classroom is all the way down the end of the hall.

These buildings house dozens of other artists and artisans as well. That’s a feature that makes it pretty fun for Heather McLean to come to the office every day.

Heather McLean: It’s great to be able to come to Eastworks, and what’s awesome is to come in and have the variety of artists who are working here.

It’s — it’s a community and it’s a destination, too for people to come and find specific types of art.