by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Rockford resident, Lyle English, has come a long way from the day almost five years ago when first he strolled into the Eric Brown Stained Glass Studio on Squire Street. Lyle had peered through the windows many times and marveled at the beautiful stained glass creations on display inside and he wanted a closer look.
In subsequent days Lyle returned to the store many times and was befriended by the store’s owner, stained glass artisan, Eric Brown. Brown offered Lyle a job helping out around the shop and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lyle began to sit in on the stained glass classes that were offered weeknights throughout the year. He began to think that maybe he too, could acquire the skills necessary to create stained glass pieces.
Prodded by Brown, Lyle began to take classes. Lyle (now 51) says, “I was all thumbs at first but with Eric’s help and encouragement I stuck with it and got better.”
Starting with simple sun-catchers, Lyle’s skills steadily increased to the point where he has just completed a large Tiffany-style stained glass lamp shade replicating the original Tiffany “Trumpet Vine” pattern.
Composed of 985 pieces of cut glass and requiring nine and a half pounds of solder to piece together, Lyle tells us, “It was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” The lampshade required 222 hours (five plus work weeks) to complete and sits atop a Tiffany replica (leaf and arc) table lamp base. The shade is beautiful to behold, with its richly colored blossoms and the detailed texture of the vine’s trunk as it winds around the piece. The shade and base combined weight is a whopping 55 pounds.
Lyle has become a popular character around the shop, both to customers and class students. He continually cracks people up by fracturing the English language with malapropisms in the style of Yankee legend, Yogi Berra. Keeping up a constant patter that humors all around him, Lyle creates stained glass pieces to be placed on sale at the store or freely given away to friends and family. Most recipients have no idea of the love he puts into each piece and its actual value were it to be sold at retail.
Lyle’s whole world is Rockford. When not at work in the store Lyle, an avid and accomplished fisherman, can be often found fishing for Steelhead Salmon from Rockford’s Rogue River Dam. More often than not, he’s the only one with fish on his stringer. Before the store opens in the morning, he is often seen assisting Rockford’s Public Services Dept. by picking up trash in the parks on both sides of the dam.
Is there anyone who hasn’t attended a Rockford High School basketball or football game that hasn’t seen Lyle and his mom, Rose. Lyle is the unofficial “superfan” of Rockford High School sports teams. He and mom arrive hours early for games (both home and away) in order to secure center court, first-row seats for basketball games and front-row, 50-yard line seats for football games. There he can be loudly heard exhorting his heroes to greatness.
Not a one-dimensional person, Lyle is proud that his recently completed stained glass lampshade is prominently on display for the next 30 days just inside the front entrance of Delphi Stained Glass. Delphi, located in Lansing, is the largest wholesaler and retailer of stained glass and related supplies in West Michigan. When asked how he feels about this signal honor, Lyle replies with one of his malapropisms, “It just gives me goosebumples!”