Copper in the Arts

April 2016

Carl Altman’s Love of Sunlight Through Stained Glass

By Jennifer Hetrick

Stained glass Carl Altman with his work. Photograph by Jennifer Hetrick.Carl Altman with one of his stained glass works.
Photograph by Jennifer Hetrick.

After a few stints in other industries, including machining and real estate, he knew stained glass was his true calling.

Fascinated with stained glass since he was a child, Carl Altman turned his passion into a lifelong career and legacy. Today, he is an instructor teaching classes in his beloved medium at ArtFusion 19464, a nonprofit gallery and community art center about 20 minutes from Altman’s home in Barto, Pennsylvania.

“I like the beauty of how the sunlight plays with the glass colors,” Altman says about what draws him to create stained glass art. “Sunlight lights glass up unbelievably. I think that’s why I like it compared to other forms of art.”

Strong reds, blues and greens often show up in his pieces.

He took his first class in stained glass at Reading Area Community College, about a 30-minute drive from the gallery where he has taken the reigns as instructor since four years ago.

Altman teaches classes that span six weeks at a time.

He has taken a number of more in-depth courses through different specialists around his region in recent years to continue building his abilities, and this has also led him into restoration work with antique pieces of stained glasses.

His stained glass shapes tend to be curvy, and are heavily influenced by organic forms, reminiscent of mountains and trees.

“They’re more work, but I like the way they stand out,” Altman says about complex objects with less presence of straight lines.

“With copper foil, you can use it as a part of the design,” Altman says. “The advantage of copper foil is that it tends to be sturdier, and you can also make smaller, more intricate designs with it.”

He usually purchases his copper foil in 7/32” and sometimes 3/4" sizes from Warner Stained Glass in Whitehall, Pennsylvania.

Altman’s glass is sourced from Colors of Glass, LLC in Audubon, Pennsylvania.

“I use different sizes of copper foil for different glass,” Altman adds.

Stained glass workStained glass work by Carl Altman.
Photograph by Jennifer Hetrick.

He uses approximately 90 percent copper foil and only 10 percent lead came to wrap around his glass in final pieces.

Some glass in his designs is thicker, while other sections are thinner, so he incorporates foil that makes sense for a particular project and the details involved.

Altman gives himself the choices of copper, black, brass, green and pewter for patina finishes of copper foil once soldering is completed.

His stained glass has been a part of group exhibits at ArtFusion 19464 as well as Franklin Commons in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

A brown-eyed fish in teal glass for water, encased in a circle, hangs from a window at Hickory Park Restaurant in Gilbertsville, PA where Altman is a regular customer.

He crafted the fish for Marion Nunan who owns the restaurant with his wife, Linda; Marion is known to be off fishing whenever time allows.

He also created a stained glass wedding invitation frame for one of Nunan’s friends after he asked Altman if it was something that could be delicately fashioned; the piece joins together green shamrocks as a reminder of the bride’s Irish ancestry and other symbols, too.

The door of a Sunday school classroom at First Presbyterian Church in Pottstown has a vibrantly red cardinal in the frame of its glass, perched on a branch, in memory of one teacher there who passed away.

And people from around the community in Pottstown are known to walk away with newfound smiles after purchasing one of his stained glass peace signs to hang in their homes.

“Experimenting with colors and seeing the finished panels,” are what Altman says he enjoys most about his close relationship with stained glass.


ArtFusion 19464, 254 East High Street, Pottstown, PA, (610) 326-2506

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