Transfixed by the Light

Richard MacDonald, a stained-glass artist for 53 years, has all these ingredients, and he has prospered in a difficult field. 

As a young boy, Richard was fascinated by glass. He first was drawn to the daylight’s refraction through something that was delivered to his doorstep every morning: sturdy glass milk bottles. He was mystified and transfixed by the light passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another, or through a medium of varying density. 

So, during the ʼ60s, Richard started developing his craft and understanding how broken, colored glass can be transformed into art. As he was developing this ability, he needed his first dose of perseverance. There was a time when Japanese manufacturers decided to corner the decorative stained-glass market by buying up all the available colored glass manufactured in the U.S. Not just some of it, or the majority of it, but all of it. Somehow, using resourcefulness and ingenuity, Richard fought his way through this problem and found the materials he needed. 

With a wife and three children, he left Boston, and he went north to Boothbay Harbor, where he purchased a simple home. He still displays and creates his artwork in the same location, all these many years later. 

Gradually his expertise, experience, and creative drive began to pay off. At one time, he had three hundred galleries carrying his artwork worldwide. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York both requested his artwork. 

It was about at this time of success and recognition that Richard next needed a good dose of perseverance. Just as his art had become well-recognized and his career had achieved these heights, a fire destroyed his studio and workshop. And he learned that his insurance would not cover the entire loss, leaving him $200,000 short in rebuilding. 

In discussing these trials, successes, and tribulations, Richard speaks of one philosophy which kept him grounded and resilient. Even while enjoying the tremendous success of his artwork around the world, he always kept his ambitions low. Keeping his expectations realistic and modest allowed him to overcome the obstacles that life sometimes threw at him. 

Today, Richard has rebuilt his workshop and studio, and he still creates beautiful stained-glass artwork in Boothbay. We are fortunate that pendant lamp shades, sconces, boxes, mirrors, nautical scenes, and much more continue to flow from Richard’s skilled hands.

Author profile
Frank L. Quinn III

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