Roland Dedekind lives in a cozy ranch house in Center Valley with his wife, Phyllis, and a couple of small, sweet dogs. One of the dogs is named Gulley after a character in "The Horse's Mouth," a novel-made-movie about a somewhat disreputable artist named Gulley Jimson. I forget the other dog's name but neither of them enter into the story after this, so no matter.
This story is about Roland, a gifted stained-glass hobbyist, and Phyllis, a skilled quilter. I had originally gone over to interview Roland after he emailed me about his hobby, but it soon became clear that Roland and Phyllis would have to be reckoned with as a pair — one of those couples who mesh like gears and seem to be engaged in a sort of private choreography as they tell stories and poke about the house looking for things.
Without Phyllis, for instance, I don't think Roland would ever have found his moose-shaped Christmas ornament, which he had been seeking in vain on the yard-tall metal Christmas tree that displays all of his handmade pieces.
And, without Roland, Phyllis probably would have forgotten to show me her ceramic giraffe and ceramic tiger, made years ago before she decided to devote herself entirely to the cloth arts.
"I'm strictly all quilts now," she told me.
The Dedekinds, married 31 years, are clearly mutual admirers of each other's talents, and rightly so. Her quilts are expertly made and warmly colorful. And his stained-glass pieces — particularly the Christmas ornaments, which he makes every year for members of the family — bear the mark of a free-range imagination.
Looking over the display tree, which stands all year on a table in the family room, I noted the following: an outhouse, a locomotive, a pumpkin, a fish, a snowflake, the Starship Enterprise, the Toonerville Trolley (from a 1920s comic strip featuring a character named Physically Powerful Katrinka) and a Moravian star.
But there were many, many others, some of which wouldn't seem to have any business on a Christmas tree.
"The Christmas cockroach," Phyllis said, holding a sleek-looking cockroach in the palm of her hand.
This was not to be confused with the Christmas dung beetle ("A scarab," Roland said) or the Christmas praying mantis.
Phyllis explained that these ornaments ("The weird ones") were made specially for Roland's brothers, Ross and Michael, who live out near Reading and are themselves craftsmen who make and sell duck decoys. She also pointed out that her husband is so detail-oriented that he included a tiny roll of toilet paper on the outhouse ornament.
We went down into Roland's basement work area — a table heaped with boxes of stained-glass pieces, soldering equipment, a grinder and other tools of the trade. There is also a small CD player. He listens to classical music when he's working, or show tunes, but has a special fondness for Nat King Cole.
He played Cole's "Stardust" — and sang along — as he demonstrated how to cut a section of glass, grind the edges smooth and line them with copper foil. Those are the three necessary steps before soldering one piece of glass to another.
Beyond ornaments, Roland makes butterflies and lampshades. He has also taken a particular shine to quilter's blocks — squares of stained glass he said can be used as sun catchers or set into illuminated frames as wall hangings, or whatever else a decorator cares to do with them.
Roland was a mathematics professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown for 40 years, so the process of cutting glass and arranging it, puzzle-like, into geometric designs for the blocks appeals to his nature.
He got into stained-glass work because of his wife, who used to work for an Allentown stained-glass craftsman named Tom Glose. Phyllis began making her own stained-glass pieces at home.
"She's crafty," Roland said.
Phyllis liked the end products, the lampshades and so on, but hated how she cut her fingers and picked up splinters all the time. So she asked Roland to do the cutting, grinding and foiling while she did the soldering.
He got good at it, she moved on to ceramics and quilting, and now they have a cottage industry of sorts, selling items at craft fairs here and there — not the ornaments, which are personal, but butterflies and Moravian stars and other pieces.
Phyllis devotes much of her labor to a charitable group at her church, the Locust Valley Chapel of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The group is called the Loving Threads Sewing Ministry. Among other items, they make head scarves for cancer patients who have lost their hair during treatment.
I spent an hour or so with the Dedekinds and their creations, and added them to the long list of people I am glad to have met in this job.
As I drove off, they stood outside the front door, waving. All the rest of the day I had "Stardust" in my head.
• For inquiries about Roland Dedekind's crafts, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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