I had thought it odd the last time I was at the local stained glass supply store. I’d asked for a couple of lengths of the half-inch zinc U-came that I use to frame most of my panels. The clerk had turned to the wall behind the counter where the long boxes that held the six-foot long strips of came were shelved.
After making a vague show of glancing into a couple of boxes, he announced, “We don’t have any.”
“When do you expect to have more?” I inquired.
“I wouldn’t count on it,” he said.
He wouldn’t count on it? I wanted to say, “You didn’t really look very hard. Maybe there’s some in the back room where you guys disappear to sometimes to retrieve the less frequently requested supplies.”
But I’m not the pushy kind, so instead I hopefully asked, “But you do expect to have more sometime?”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” he replied.
If I were the pushy kind, I would have then said, “What do you mean, ‘I wouldn’t count on it?’ Surely I’m not the only one who buys this item. And if you no longer carry it, you should say so, or say you can order it, or say where I might find some. But just ‘I wouldn’t count on it?’ What lousy customer service!”
But of course, I didn’t say any of that. I’m more of the strong silent type. Or perhaps the wimpy silent type. Most likely the latter. Regardless, I left the store sans zinc and puzzled by the whole encounter.
I returned to the store yesterday, thinking that if someone else were working the counter I would ask again about the zinc came, and maybe inquire as to exactly what “I wouldn’t count on it” meant. That would have been quite pushy for me, too, but I was still rankled by the prior clerk’s lackluster comments.
I got my answer even before stepping foot in the store. A notice posted on the front door read “Going Out of Business.”
After 12 decades in business, Cline Glass in Portland, OR was shutting its doors.
I’ve frequented Cline’s ever since I began dabbling in stained glass in the 1990s. Before moving to the Portland area, I would drive the 80-some miles from the coastal town of Tillamook to purchase supplies for my projects. Over the couple of decades since my introduction to stained glass, it has evolved from “dabbling” into something more akin to my “lifeline.”
A bit melodramatic perhaps, but glass is my greatest outlet for creativity. A form of meditation. My home studio is my place to get into “the zone” and settle my anxieties for a bit of time. A place to let the ruminating side of my brain take a rest as the technical side figures out how to score the glass to get that inside curve to break cleanly.
Sure, I can order glass and supplies from catalogs or online, but buying stained glass long distance is really a crap shoot.
There are often significant variations even within an individual sheet of some types of glass. And what you receive in your long-awaited delivery from across the country may or may not resemble the sample photo you saw in the online catalog. Usually it does not.
When buying stained glass online, you can’t hold it up and see how it reflects light, how it filters light, how it comes to life and brings the ambient light around it to life.
You can’t place it next to another selected piece and see how the colors and textures will relate with one another, evaluate whether the pieces will work together to create the effect you want, determine whether the unique patterns on the quarter-sheets in front of you are capable of telling the story you want your finished piece to portray.
Needless to say, I’m bummed. I asked a clerk yesterday (not the “wouldn’t count on it” guy) where I might go from now on to get my glass, and he said, “Try Seattle.” Another 173 miles away, but I will make the drive when I need to.
I’ll need to plan out my projects better. I will no longer have the luxury of thinking, “You know what would look good here…” and zipping off to Cline’s to see if they still have that kind or color I saw on a previous visit.
As a general rule, I don’t like change. But I guess every 120 years or so, change is going to happen. I will miss Cline’s, but Seattle’s a nice town to visit. Maybe I’ll find a good source of glass there, a retailer that will be in business for another fifty years at least.
If I find that source, I will likely stick with it for the next few decades or so, or until I can no longer break out inside curves, whichever comes first.
That, I would say, is something you can count on.