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Guru of glass

Tulsa Stained Glass brings out your creative side

Article by Nancy Hermann

Photography by Bill Hermann

Originally published in Tulsa Lifestyle

You may not know Richard Bohm, but he would make quick work of that. He’s an open-book kind of guy with a good sense of humor and a sidekick dog named Mascot Jack. Bohm also is the founder and owner of Tulsa Stained Glass, a company that has been Tulsa’s go-to establishment for stained glass commissions, craftsman-quality repairs, gifts and instruction in stained glass creation since 1975. 

For 35 years Tulsa Stained Glass did the bulk of its business at 41st and Memorial. At home now at 41st and Sheridan, Bohm is the guru of glass. What started out as a home hobby, has grown into a continually evolving, multi-faceted business. At age 73, instead of winding down, Bohm is branching out. “I’m supposed to be retired, but I’m having too damned much fun!” he exclaims.

Prior to running Tulsa Stained Glass, Bohm was a contract designer/draftsman. His talents for wrangling logistics, drawing schematics and having the know-how to repair everything from breakage incidents to ailing family heirlooms have been assets to his many endeavors. Restoration jobs, like church window repair, are a big part of Bohm’s business, as is newly commissioned work. Tulsa Stained Glass’s large-scale projects include a window at the Ronald McDonald House, a 10’ x 30’ installation at St. Francis Children’s Hospital, a piece for Boone Pickens Stadium, and stained glass for Boston Avenue United Methodist Church.

Another focus of Tulsan Stained Glass is helping students make their own stained glass creations in classes and workshops. Bohm has been teaching for decades. In refining his approach, he has learned how to best coax artistic expression from interested learners. “I’m taking the ‘can’t do’ people, the people who say, ‘I can’t,’ and hopefully turning them into the ‘can-do’ people,” says Bohm. 

Tulsa Stained Glass offers a range of classes, from Beginning Stained Glass and Glass Expressions Workshops to a class in creative doodling named DoodleBohmba. “My expertise is to take people off the street and get them doodling with squares and rectangles on a sheet of paper, and turn those half a dozen pieces into a stained-glass design that looks somewhat like what Frank Lloyd Wright might draw,” he explains.

Bohm often starts classes with fingerpainting, which evolves into putting squares and shapes on glass and following a pattern. His classes, he says, take students beyond simply manipulating squares and rectangles. “Art is a tool of self-fulfillment. Stained glass in its golden age was a tool of communication. In the time of the great cathedrals, literacy was low, and stained-glass windows told stories.” The DoodleBohmba process he engineered creates beauty and also gives people a tool — a vehicle to communicate with others. 

“People as a general rule do not feel as though they are creative. I give them the ability to tell stories about themselves. I feel I am opening up a lot of opportunities to people for self-expression through art. I want to challenge people to do more than what they think they’re capable of doing. We all have to do something in life at some point to give back and make the world a better place, so we all have to use whatever skill set we have to do it. It’s up to us as individuals to reach out and help people in whatever way we can.”

To guide clients in telling their stories through art, Bohm wrote a book, “Experience the Power of Art.” A social worker who was a client found so much therapeutic value in the piece, she suggested that a stained-glass class centered on the book might be of value to healthcare professionals. Bohm pursued the idea and was successful in getting his class approved by the Oklahoma State Board of Behavioral Health as a way for professionals to obtain Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits.

The onslaught of COVID has altered Bohm’s business to a degree, but he has adapted. “The schools shut down one week prior to spring break. All the moms and dads were stuck with the kids at home and scrambling for something for them to do, so I designed an emergency art kit.“ For a month his phones were ringing off the hook and people were jamming his parking lot buying little bits of glass, glue and tile. One of Tulsa Stained Glass’s Facebook followers suggested it would be a good idea to put the Tulsa flag into a mosaic design. Bohm developed the suggestion and business took off again. “We’ve been making mosaic tile ever since,” he said. “We’ve got the American flag, the Tulsa flag, awareness ribbons and hearts.” Bohm and staff put together a very complete, professional kit — branded it, packaged it —and are shipping it all over the country.

Tulsa Stained Glass has not let Zoom technology pass them by. Clients purchase party kits and host a Zoom gathering through which participants tune into a channel from their homes and receive instruction, including Bohm entertaining with his kit-bag of stories. Tulsa Stained Glass has conducted Zoom parties with a multitude of groups and businesses. Bohm says, “With this instruction talk that I do, they are amazed at what they can do with just a little information.” 

Bohm is currently working with a couple who is building a window together. Their distinct temperaments, however, don’t seem entirely conducive to one cohesive design. Those differences, as the couple pointed out, are strengths and a balance in their relationship. “I get the most satisfaction from creating meaning for someone,” concludes Bohm. “I suggested that part of the window be free-flowing, like a bird, and then include rigid lines to represent the other’s more organizing way of life. Just putting stories together like that. You have to listen to your customers and listen to their souls. And reflect.”

For more information on current kits and classes, visit TulsaStainedGlass.com.

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