Those traveling along Main Street in Portland may notice a colorful stained glass window hanging outside a duplex home. That’s Rose Walimaa’s residence and her artwork. The stained glass piece promotes her one-woman business, Expressions in Glass.
Walimaa, 55, has been producing stained glass art for more than three decades. Her best friend dragged her to a stained glass class back in the day and Walimaa fell in love with the art form.
“When I picked up the cutter for the first time, it was like I had done it for 100 years. I just took to it like a duck to water. Everyone else was making these little flower things, and I made a six-foot long sidelight,” Walimaa says. “The teacher said she’d never seen anyone with such a natural ability to cut. I really wonder if maybe I did it in a previous life or something.”
The stained glass style Walimaa prefers working within requires cutting out pieces of colored glass and affixing them to a larger piece of glass. “You have two patterns,” the artist explains. “There is the one where you lay everything out on, and there is also the one you use to cut out the pieces."
“You trace out the piece of glass with a marker, then you cut it out and hit it on the grinder so you don’t slice your fingers open for the next part.”
The cut-out sections are then wrapped with copper foil and adhered to the larger glass piece using solder. “That is how the window stays together,” she says.
In the realm of stained glass, Walimaa has created everything from tissue box holders to an 8-foot by 8-foot window.
“I like to say that I specialize in the more rarely-done Tiffany reproduction lamps,” Walimaa says. “There are thousands of tiny, tiny pieces and it takes a lot of focus. You totally get into a zone when you’re doing one of those. And there are not a lot of people who have the patience to do that.”
“I like making stuff that can still give me a bit of a challenge,” she says.
Recently, Walimaa was working on a piece she was commissioned to do; a 25th wedding anniversary present. “It’s just shy of 600 pieces; it’s a window of hydrangea flowers with a couple of humming birds in there,” she explains.
Walimaa’s entire home serves as her stained glass workshop. “Depending on the size of the piece, I may be at my kitchen table, or out in the shed ... I work in whatever room I need to work in. I don’t have one particular room,” says Walimaa, who moved to Portland from Colchester some seven years ago. “Fortunately, I’ve been doing this for so long I can do this sitting in bed.”
Despite battling several health issues, including Lyme disease, Walimaa stays very active. If not working on a stained glass project, the retiree is likely sprucing up her property inside and out. “My son was just yelling at me for pushing myself so hard," Walimaa says. “I have to get some production done in a day or I just guilt myself out completely. I can’t stand it.”
Going forward, Walimaa doesn’t have any grand plans for Expressions in Glass, she simply wishes to continue creating pieces people will enjoy. “I’m just grateful to get a job and have something on the table to do,” she says.
You can reach Walimaa at 860-342-0277.