Bruce Russell loved creating stained glass, but he didn’t want his Mesa home filled with it. So if it wasn’t for word of mouth about his stained glass, the former Mesa teacher would have never continued the craft.
“I’ve always liked working with my hands,” said the 58-year-old. “It keeps my mind sharp, and as long as my hands don’t become arthritic, I will continue it as long as I physically can.”
During a vacation in Laguna Beach, Calif., in the late 1970s, he discovered a local artisan who could teach him the craft. After a week in the studio, he created a small panel and fell in love with the creative process. His hobby was born.
His first venture was creating a small piece for a door in his downtown Mesa home he was restoring. Friends saw his stained glass and wanted their own. Russell already had a full-time job teaching in the Mesa Public Schools District, so his small stained glass business started out as a side job.
“It was more of a relaxing thing to create something with my hands,” he said. “I got better, quicker and more proficient over time as technology changed.”
When he built his current north Mesa home in 1980, he planned a one-room workshop next to the garage to continue making his stained glass. He continued designing, fabricating and installing his glass pieces.
Russell retired in 2005 after 33 years in the Mesa district, and now works on his glass creations full time.
His business is small and doesn’t even have a name. His customers come to him, usually after seeing his glass creations in someone’s house or seeing his advertisement on his truck.
“I wanted to do it small and didn’t want to be tied down,” Russell said. “I don’t go real fast. It has to be good or they don’t go out.”
He also works with builders, interior designers and businesses, all coming to him from word of mouth.
One of his regular clients is Marcy Dodge, an interior designer with Interior Connection Associates in Mesa.
“He’s very detail-oriented and is easy to work with,” said Dodge. “He just completed three very high-end jobs for me, including some beautiful skylight inserts that were custom-made and a Tree of Life piece that turned out really beautiful.”
Although the majority of his work can be seen in people’s homes, his glass creations can be found in restaurants, offices, mortuaries and wedding receptions. He did all the windows at Bunker Family Funeral Home and the Wright House Garden Reception Center, both in Mesa.
“It’s something that will be around for a long, long time after I’m gone,” said Russell, who is married with three children and 11 grandchildren. “I kind of like that idea. I guess it’s like leaving my mark.”
For information on Bruce Russell’s leaded and stained glass business, call (480) 390-0592 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.