by JB Hyppolite
Elaina Rivera, 30, is an artist and former Mt. Airy resident who specializes in custom stained glass, a skill that is becoming more and more rare. Her website, www.esty.com/shop/glassandtrash, displays all of her work including soft glass, hard glass, wood, cooper, concrete and gouache. Elaina created the named Glass and Trash out of fun; she likes to enunciate it in an exaggerated “Philly accent.”
“I just love the name,” said Elaina.
Anyone who visits Glass and Trash is likely to become immersed in the rich visuals Elaina provides; from a red-haired girl in a yellow dress holding an umbrella in the rain to blue and orange birds during springtime. She uses a variety of tools including a soldering iron, glass cutter, breaking pliers, a lead knife, lead nipper pliers and various others.
Elaina’s website has a lot of work she’s proud of, but her favorite piece happens to be unfinished. She’s currently working on a transom for her house. “It’s a piece that’s about me and my husband, so it’s really personal,” said Elaina, revealing that it will be in the “church stained glass” style. She views this upcoming piece along with her other pieces of art as a story. Her husband’s symbol will be a lion while Elaina’s will be that of a cowgirl. The lion and the cowgirl will be on all fours as they roar at each other.
Elaina’s husband, Stephen, owns and operates Phurnish, a business where he creates custom furniture and cabinetry in his own contemporary style. He works in wood, metal and concrete. He and Elaina share a studio and sometimes work together on each other’s projects.
Phurnish and Elaina have a job coming up where they will be framing out stained glass windows and turning them into shutters from a church that is being converted into condos.
“I always feel like stained glass found me every time I’ve gotten into it,” said Elaina. Her connection with the particular art began when she was 9. She took a summer art class that taught students how to draw animals. Unfortunately, something happened to the teacher, and the class became unavailable. It turns out custom stained glass was the only class available. “I was actually not that happy about it in the beginning, but as soon as I started doing it, I realized how cool it was, and I fell in love with it,” said Elaina, who has worked with stained glass for 20 years.
Elaina attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art for Glass Blowing but once again ended up being drawn back to working with custom stained glass after she got an essential tool called a stained glass grinder from a friend. “Building 3-dimensional work like some of my geometric terrariums or a lamp can be a bit tougher then a flat window,” Elaina said, “and repairs which involve taking apart completely or sometimes just small sections is always more complicated then creating a window from scratch.”
Rivera spent her post-college years in Mt. Airy. She used to live on Greene Street and was an avid Weaver’s Way shopper and a fan of the coffee and crepes at High Point Cafe. Elaina moved out of the area after getting married to Stephen. “I still love it out there. I love all the greenery. It feels like you’re not quite in the city … It’s just such a nice area,” she said.
Elaine also does very fine restoration work. “When it comes to this kind of work,” she explained, “it can be so special to be asked and entrusted to work on a piece of art that may be 100 years old or even more. I was recently asked to repair a broken lamp that was very special because the client’s father had made it.”
Steven Geiger, of lower Northeast Philly, was a recent restoration customer of Elaina’s. “She repaired an old transom window from a house I am restoring,” he said. “When I got it back, I could hardly believe it was the same window. The entire window had been cleaned and repaired, and the patina of all the lead repairs exactly match like the original, and it’s impossible to spot the replaced glass pieces.”
Elaina is originally from Jupiter, Florida, and after a detour at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico for a major in Photography, she moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple’s Tyler Campus, where she earned her BFA in Glass Blowing with a minor in Art History.
Elaina and Stephen look to eventually open a gallery within the next year in their home. They currently live in Kensington, near the Philadelphia Brewing Company and Frankford arts corridor. People can also check out Elaina’s work at glassandtrash.tumblr.com.