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Kris Kerzman, The Arts Partnership, Published January 05 2014

Stained glass renaissance: Man finds new lease on life through art

FARGO - Ramon Morin Jr. is brimming with enthusiasm as he points out the features of Studio Renaissance, his stained-glass studio here.

He moves from the retail space, with a wall full of various colors of stained glass, into the open space of the studio, and then into another work area. As he does, his excitement grows contagious.

You could attribute part of that excitement to the coffee – he drinks a lot of it – and part of it to his delivery – he’s a former slam poet. But perhaps the biggest reason for his excitement is that this place gave him a new life.

“I like to tell people I’ve lived two lives. I lived one that I survived, and then this one that I’m truly living now,” he says.

Morin’s story is as unlikely as it is inspirational. An unexpected family crisis about 13 years ago brought him to Fargo from north Houston, where he was living in a rough neighborhood and getting involved with the wrong people.

“I lived that crazy, insane life that you see on television or try to emulate, evidently, if you’re in high school nowadays,” he says. Upon moving here, his fortunes changed when he answered a Job Service ad to work at Classic Glass. He didn’t know anything about stained glass at the time but saw an opportunity to learn a new skill and hounded Classic Glass owner Terry Wallach until he gave him the job. Morin worked by Wallach’s side, learned the ins and outs of creating with stained glass and soon began to manage the studio.

Morin said his move here and his new job gave him more than just employment.

“It took me years to trust people and to understand what real friendship was and how it really worked. Not gonna lie; that man started it,” he says of Wallach.

Late last year, the two joined into a partnership and rechristened the studio as Studio Renaissance. Morin expanded the studio’s offerings with stained glass workshops and smaller projects on top of their retail business, larger contracts, and demand for restoration services.

For example, a homeowner recently came to him with a simple design for the window next to her front door. Morin worked closely with her on the design, adapted it to stained glass and installed it.

“It was her experience, her design, and her way of putting her fingerprint on her home,” he said.

Morin gets particularly excited when discussing workshops and classes at Studio Renaissance, saying he wants it to be a “community studio” where students can learn and work on their own projects at their own pace.

Carol Goerdt, one of his students, took a class in November and was drawn in by how relaxing and meditative it is to work with glass.

“I’m not a very big arts-and-crafts kind of person, and I’ve never had a lot patience when the results are slow,” Goerdt said, adding that she enjoys home improvement projects.

But Morin’s teaching style helped draw Goerdt into the craft.

“He’s fun and very patient. You know how some teachers are overly critical, and you have to do it their way? With glass, you have to find your own way and try lots of different ways to find something comfortable for you,” she said.

Julie Moore, another Studio Renaissance student, fell in love with stained glass after touring cathedrals in London. She wanted to pick up a creative hobby and liked that, through the studio, she didn’t have to purchase tools. That made it affordable as well as fulfilling.

“Sometimes I would struggle because it was new, but once you get the hang of it and develop a technique, then you can pick it up quickly,” Moore said.

There are plenty of reasons to try your hand at stained glass, Morin said. Even if it doesn’t change your life as it changed his, it can at least add some character and vibrancy to your home.

“(Stained glass) gives you privacy. It doesn’t kill your light. It’s unique,” he said. “You want to give your home a bit of identity. And why does art have to be something you put on a wall? Why can’t it be stained glass?”

If you go

WHAT: Studio Renaissance

where: 2796 5th Ave. S., Fargo

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturday

More information: (701) 235-2662, www.studiorenaissancellc.com

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, and its online publication, ARTSpulse. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net/artspulse.