Mark Schoem's San Pedro shop is a colorful mosaic of religious symbols and nature images.
For three decades, Schoem has run a business to create stained-glass windows for churches, residences and commercial properties.
Schoem's Ancient Arts workshop in downtown San Pedro came as a result of what he jokingly refers to as his midlife crisis when he was about 28. That is when he left a career as a psychologist to work with stained glass.
After several years of working for others, Schoem, 61, of San Pedro, started his own business in 1980.
What does your job entail?
I have to balance between producing the windows, creating the designs, doing the fabrication, and putting enough time into doing my Web site, doing my Yellow Pages ad, talking to clients and prospective clients, trying not to be a workaholic.
How does the process start?
It's usually a collaboration between the client and me. A lot of people don't really know what they want, so I show them pictures they can browse through. When they agree what they want and the price is right, usually I do a full-size drawing. Then I invite them back to see the drawing. Most of the time they say it's great. But sometimes they say move that circle over a little or make the flower bigger. Art is in the eye of the beholder.
What happens next?
The glass comes colored and we cut it into pieces. So when a customer comes in for, say, a residential project, I'll show them different colors so they can pick what colors they want. And they can come back and I'll put all the cut glass on this light table so they can see how it will look like. That gives the customer one more chance to change something, especially the colors, before I put the lead.
The lead is the material that goes between the pieces of glass. When this is all placed together, I solder the joints. Then I put putty between the lead and the glass to keep it from leaking, and it also strengthens it. And everything gets cleaned up. Then I put horizontal bars to strengthen the window.
What type of glass do you use?
We buy the glass in big sheets, about 2 by 4 feet or 32 by 42 inches. It comes from special stained-glass factories and they incorporate the color into the glass when they manufacture it. I have another artist who I send the glass to be painted.
How long does it take you to do a project?
Sometimes it takes a month or several months because I'm usually juggling a lot of projects. I just installed a project at a church in Irvine and it took three years from the time the priest first contacted me.
Why so long?
Drawing, waiting for the architect to specify what size the windows would be, selecting the glass and all these approvals.
Who are your customers?
I have a lot of residential, but lately I've had more churches.
What was your biggest project?
I did a project for St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Los Angeles that was 15 by 28 feet. I restored the window after the Northridge earthquake.
What were the challenges specific to that project?
It takes a lot of diligence to go to the suppliers and try to match the glass to the remnants.
How much do you charge?
My average price is at least $1,000. I price every job individually. It has to do with the size. But the intricacy is more important. It takes more time if it has more pieces. And the type of glass is important.
What's the most you've charged for a project?
It's a toss-up between a couple of churches. For one church in Pomona, I did about 40 windows. I think it was about $180,000. It was about 20 years ago, so now it would be a lot more money.