Volume 79, Number 20 | October 21 - 27, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

East Meets East
The East Village and Lower East Side | A special Villager supplement

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Patti Kelly at work in her studio on E. Eighth St.

Through a glass colorfully, creating winning windows

By Albert Amateau 

If anyone in the East Village could embody all the traditional neighborhood virtues, Patti Kelly can. Artist, craftsperson, entrepreneur and community advocate and activist, she runs Kelly Glass Studio, now at 368 E. Eighth St., which creates and restores stained-glass windows and panels for churches, synagogues and private residences.

Kelly teaches stained-glass restoration to local residents who also serve as interns at the studio.

“I started teaching and training people in my studios for years,” she told a recent visitor, recalling that she also taught at Parsons for a couple of years in the early ’90s.

Born in Brooklyn (her father was an airplane mechanic during World War II) and a graduate of Brooklyn College where she majored in fine arts, Kelly went to work at major glass studios, including the Rambusch Co. 

“They hired people when big jobs came in and laid them off when things were slow, but I got to work with incredibly talented people,” she said. She went into business for herself on Front St. in Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Bridge.

But for the past 20 years, the Lower East Side and the East Village, has been Kelly’s turf. Before moving to E. Eighth St. in 2006, Kelly Glass Studio was around the corner at 122 Avenue C where it did business for 12 years.

When Kelly learned that she would lose her lease on the Avenue C studio, she asked a friend, Peter Margolis, if there were any ground-floor commercial spaces for rent in the residential co-op where he lived on E. Eighth St. 

“He said yes, and I was able to move in without skipping a beat,” she said. “Most of the residents in the building are artists one way or another.”

Before the Avenue C studio, Kelly was on Essex St. between Rivington and Stanton Sts. until the rent became too high to handle. And prior Essex St., Kelly was on St. Mark’s Place.

“When I was on St. Mark’s Place there were bookstores and bars — it was before McDonald’s and K-Mart. When K-Mart came in on Ninth St., I knew that neighborhood was not for me,” she said.

Nevertheless, her business has thrived and included projects from Brooklyn to New Jersey.

For the restoration of the clock in the Cooper Union Foundation Building a few years ago, Kelly did the stained-glass work. The Garment Center Synagogue on 40th St. was another client of the studio.

In Brooklyn, Kelly Glass Studio restored the stained glass in St. Mary Star of the Sea Church on Court St., which dates from 1857. St. Agnes Church on Sacket St. was another client; all the windows in that church tell the story of St. Agnes, a Roman girl martyred for her faith in 304 A.D., Kelly noted.

One of her favorite projects was restoring the stained glass in the 100-year-old St. Michael-St. Edward’s Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

“It’s a beautiful church, a real gem in the middle of a housing project,” Kelly said.

The studio is currently restoring the stained-glass windows of St. John Vianney in Colonia, N.J. The windows were crated and transported to the studio on E. Eighth St. where Kelly and her students built work tables for the glass restoration using the wood from the crates.

Kelly, who lived in the neighborhood until recently when she moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn, has been a stalwart in the Committee to Save St. Brigid’s since the church on Avenue B and E. Eighth St. fell on hard times in 2004.

Although Kelly was overjoyed along with other committee members when the Catholic Archdiocese of New York accepted a $20 million anonymous donation in May 2008 to restore the church and the parish, she still regrets that the archdiocese removed — and apparently destroyed — much of the stained glass more than two years ago. 

“The windows on the north side of the church were beautiful,” she said. The archdiocese, for its part, claims these windows were merely painted glass, not stained glass, and thus not valuable.

But she is optimistic about the work currently underway at St. Brigid’s.

“The contractor is working every day, much longer than contractors usually do,” she said. “I’m very hopeful about the project.”




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