Shards of Glass

In the last years of the 19th century as the Craftsman style of architecture began, an artist was hired to design and install the stained glass windows in a suite of hotels. He was assisted by a team of workers that included a young apprentice.

The apprentice begged the master’s permission to build one of the windows that would be featured in a less prominent area of the hotel. The master brushed off the request as being too costly. He also didn’t think the apprentice was ready for such a task. This did not deter the apprentice. Every week, after he’d completed whatever tasks he’d been assigned, he’d ask for the master’s approval in taking on a design of his own creation. Eventually, the master gave in and agreed that the apprentice could create one window, but it had to be done on his own time and budget.

“I will not disappoint you,” the young man said.

At the end of each workday, he collected shards of glass and materials from wherever he could find them. Some had been discarded by other artists working on their windows; others were salvaged from artists working on different projects. He worked patiently for many long nights to piece together a window that could be installed before the hotel was finished.

The first day the people entered the foyer, they marveled at the beauty of the stained glass windows, especially the one designed by the apprentice. Even the master stood in awe of its craftsmanship and told him so.

The apprentice was also pleased with his creation. Most of all, he was amazed that he’d been able to create a thing of beauty from the shards of glass no other artist saw fit to use.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then usefulness is in the hands of the user. Thinking about it today, there is a lot more material generated, used and discarded than ever before. There is a good chance a nearby art studio or maker’s studio can take an old item and turn it into tomorrow’s masterpiece.

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