Foothills Art Glass owner Eddie Donald never guessed he would become such a reputable glass designer. In fact, the University of South Carolina Physical Education and Biology major had not even taken an art class when the opportunity to draw glass designs presented itself. But today, Donald not only custom designs windows for South Carolina homeowners and churches, he also fills orders from as far away as New York City and beyond.
Donald’s first job out of college was with K-mart, where he worked as a manager for 10 years. The, the owners of Palmetto Mirror and Art Glass resigned, creating an opportunity for Donald.
“When our artist left, I asked for a shot at designing” Donald said. “I grew up drawing for fun. And I remembered really liking the mechanical drawing and geometry involved in a drafting class I took in high school. I became the primary designer for the shop, which meant I was the one who would draw renderings for customers that had window image in mind, Donald said.
While Donald seemed to stumble upon his talent, interest in his art form traces back to a much earlier time. People have been fascinated with the unusual relationship between light and cut glass for many centuries. Stained glass first appeared in luxury homes in this country in the late 1800s, having only appeared in American churches before then. Since that time, builders and homeowners have been drawn to the rich tones and images associated with colored glass and have worked to include them in more construction. Opportunity called once again for Donald in 1994. The owners of the Palmetto Mirror and Art Glass had decided to chose shop indefinitely. Their business had been a successful one, and they encouraged Donald to open a glass shop of his own.
In March 1995, Eddie Donald and partner Donna Anthony opened Foothills Art Glass at 300 Trade Street in downtown Greer, just blocks away from Donald’s former employer. The had renovated an old two-story brick building with two large picture windows on either side of the front door. They cleverly installed stained glass panels within the door. Eddie and Donna used the front of their orderly shop for display and the back for designing, cutting and building windows.
How Glass is Made
Customers fall into two categories, there are those that purchase doors from the line they carry and then request a window design for the door itself or for the transom and sidelights around the door. There is an equal number that want to renovate older windows with new glass.
Typically, a customer will come to the shop with an idea already in mind, Donald said. Sometimes the idea might be to recreate a scene from a photograph. Others will simply want a traditional, geometric glass pattern that is compatible with a certain door style. Whichever it is, Donald draws the idea to scale on drafting paper, preferring a hand drawing to computer sketch. He then mails the drawing along with a rice quote to the customer. Once the customer agrees to the design, Donald draws a full-scale rendering of the image. If the windows require a certain type of beveled glass, Donald contacts a company that hand cuts its pieces.
When the necessary glass for job is assembled, Donald and his team begin to build the window that requires extreme care and accuracy. One will create a template, which must be exact for the window to fit properly. Another will cut the glass and lead to match the template. When the glass and lead is in place, the lead is soldered together. The next step is to glaze the window. This is a process that seals the glass in place making the window air and water tight. It takes several days for the window to dry before it can be brushed and cleaned.
It takes about six weeks for Donald and his team to fill an order or complete a window. So customers are encouraged to contact Foothills Art Glass as soon as know they want a stain glass window. Cost varies upon the window size. Ideally, a customer will investigate the possibility of stained glass and still have time to adjust building plans accordingly.
Warren Watson of Watson Builders in Greenville stated, “Foothills Art Glass provides a service that is difficult to find now. There are few craftsmen in the area that can create unique glass windows and window designs. They are true craftsmen that produce careful work that is necessary in finer houses. And they provide a service we need for our customers that are renovating older, more traditional homes.”
For more information on stained glass windows, contact Eddie Donald today. Or visit his store in Greer at 215 W. Wade Hampton Blvd, Greer. We are in the Hampton West Plaza, Suite O. Are you a stained-glass window hobbyist? Come for a visit! Supplies and patterns are also available for sale.
Eddie Donald, Owner of Foothills Art Glass in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Upstate of SC