Michael Mezalick, founder of Mezalick Designs Studio, was 15 and spending his summer studying music in Ireland. While sitting in a chapel lost in thought one day, light shone through a stained glass window. The beautiful sight caught his eye. He remembers looking up at the stained glass window and saying to himself, "I can do that."
And it turns out, he could.
Now, 45 years later, Mezalick's business has taken him all over the world to places including Japan, South America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Lexington where, for the next two weeks, he'll repair the stained glass windows that adorn the chapel in Saint Peter Catholic Church on Barr Street.
The stained glass windows there were made in the 1920s by famous stained glass artist George Sotter, Mezalick said. The windows began to buckle under the weight of the glass and the lead. Before glass starts to pop out of the windows it's time to straighten them out, Mezalick said.
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The church found Mezalick because a member of the Building and Grounds Committee had heard about his work. The Rev. John List said Mezalick was chosen because of his in-depth knowledge of stained glass windows.
"He's been very forthcoming with information and very reassuring," List said.
The repairs began Monday. The windows were in excellent shape compared to some he has seen, he said.
"I've been brought windows in boxes," Mezalick said. "It's just like a puzzle and putting them together is a craftsman's art."
Assembling the window is fairly easy, Mezalick said. It's basically putting glasses and the pieces of lead in the right place.
"It's 1,200 years old," he said. "There's nothing new other than electricity."
The artistry involves selecting the right colors and creating the overall design. Mezalick not only repairs stained glass, but also creates new stained glass windows.
"For 25 years, I only did new windows," Mezalick said. "Now, I'm fixing a lot of them because there aren't a lot of new churches being built."
His industry is fading. Mezalick's business once had 31 employees and is now made up of three.
He doesn't mind the shrinking of the industry, he said, because he no longer has to sit behind a desk all day, but can work in the field.
Stained glass goes through periods of fading in and out of popularity.
"It comes and goes," Mezalick said. "People think it's just for churches, but it isn't."
Because of the expensive nature of stained glass windows, many businesses seek out the alternative: plastic. Some of Mezalick's bids on projects were lost to business owners choosing the plastic product.
Because of the change in the industry, Mezalick said repair work keeps him in business as well as expanding his crafts of mosaics and three-dimensional models for wood carvings.
But working in stained glass, especially in churches, is an honor, Mezalick said.
"There's something special about it," he said.