Zanesville Times-Recorder - August 10, 2002
A WINDOW TO PARADISE
By Maggie Downs
When Chuck Borsari sends letters to his friends, he often adds a dateline: PARADISE, U.S.A.
Indeed, his farm property is a bit of paradise -- the lush hills of Morgan County swell as far as the eye can see with orchards, pastures and 7,000 pine trees planted by Borsari and his wife, Emily Matusek.
" One boy said to me, 'Gee Mister. You live in vacation,'" Borsari said, with his trademark grin stretched across his face.
Borsari, 66, is dressed casually for work, a pair of bright Nikes on his feet, Winnie the Pooh hat perched on his head, a string of turquoise around his neck, the ever-present smile on his face. His long hair is pulled back into a ponytail and his beard is a shocking blast of silver on the steamy late July day.
He stands poised to slide open the studio door before he pauses for effect.
" This is the barn they said I went and ruined," he said, chuckling, as though he has just given the punch line to a joke.
He pulls the door open easily, the way he has every morning for the past 24 years. Inside is the exact opposite of what you'd expect to find in a 1904 English classic barn. Thirty-nine windows of varying shapes and sizes makes studio and shop glow with dappled sunlight. Sizable sheets of colored glass are filed away against the back wall.
There's a large table for cutting the patterns and pieces. Antiques are scattered. And everywhere -- glass. Glass forming flowers and seahorses and landscapes. Glass like precious stones. Glass like a beautiful dream.
It's like cracking open a geode.
This is a far cry from what Borsari found in the late 1970s when he purchased the property.
" Over here was manure," Borsari said, gesturing the length of the right side of the barn before turning to his left. "And over here, manure. Heck, I had no idea what to do with it."
With help from a neighbor, Borsari cleaned up the steaming pile. The next six years were even more effort, renovating, repairing and patching the old place. All the while, the "city boy" didn't know what he was doing.
" When you're dumb, you just ask questions," Borsari said. "It's amazing what you can do when you need to."
That pretty much sums up how the artist ended up in Morgan County at all. Exhuasted from the rat race, Borsari knew he had only one option -- quit his job, leave the city, and follow his dream.
The seasoned journalist spent years reporting and editing in such places as Latrobe, Pa., Ashtabula, and in Columbus at the now-dufunct Citizen-Journal.
Then Borsari made the leap to public relations, working behind the scenes for candidates through the Ohio AFL-CIO. After about a decade, he's had enough.
" I had an unlimited expense account, the credit cards, the car, I had everything," Borsari said. "And I just quit. I had to. I'd had enough of politicians. I was tired of being a paid hack.
A few years earlier, Borsari purchased a stained glass mirror as a Christmas present for Emily.
" I was just attracted to it, because it was so beautiful," he said emphatically. "And then I saw the reaction when I gave Emily the mirror. . ."
In 1973, Borsari took a few art classes to learn more about this unique fart form. His first piece was a 4-by-6 inch design, with a few rough spots.
" Look at that," he said, pulling the piece from an antique dresser and holding it up. He points to the soldering between the glass pieces." What horrible work!"
Still, there was something about the craft that Borsari loved.
" It was therapy, especially with all the headaches from work," he said.
" I'd put my shorts on, grab a beer and make some stained glass. It relaxed me. "
Turns out, it wasn't just relaxing. Borsari was actually pretty good at this stained glass stuff. In the latter part of his journalism career, he laid out pages and learned the basics of graphic design. That, coupled with his study of mechanical drawing in college, gave him a foundation for this art that uses precise shapes, T-squares and compasses.
" Everything else is 28 years of making mistakes," he laughed.
Once he realized this could be more than just a hobby, Borsari and Matusek looked for potential properties for a studio and home in 26 states.
When they found what the were looking for in Morgan County, Borsari and his wife cut a deal.
" He had what I lovingly refer to as his mid-life crisis," Matusek said." So I said I would teach so he could do his dream."
His dream was realized on the property that contained a house, barns, and enough storage space to keep Borsari content.
" His comment to me was, 'Oh good. Now I never have to throw anything away,'" Matusek said.
She remained true to her word, teaching special education classes for 30 years. Meanwhile, in addition to being a stay-at-home husband, Borsari built up his business by selling small stained glass pieces, like jewelry boxes, wherever he could.
" Every Rotary Club. Every moms' club," he said. "Any time four people would get together, I was there."
But he didn't want to do that for long, which is why he continued to revamp the old barn into a beautiful working space.
" I figured out early on that I didn't want to go to every art show and sleep under a table," he said "I wanted a studio people would want to come see. That was the goal from the beginning."
Borsari certainly accomplished his goal. Not only does he rarely have to travel to find work, he is now making $30,000 windows for upscale homes along with the $50 jewelry boxes.
Still, his work remains inspired and most importantly, personalized.
" I like to first meet in the person's environment," he said. "You let me in your house for five minutes, and I'll know more about you than you ever wanted me to know. "
While the people like the beauty of the glass, there's something more to it.
" People who come here are very appreciative it's made by hand by somebody they can talk to," he said. "It's not made in China or made by a machine. We live in a highly industrialized world, and to find something handcrafted makes it so special."
For Borsari, the glass is a challenge, an ever-changing work.
" It's the beauty of the glass I like," he said. "It's just an incredible art form; a living art form. I especially like it in here in the barn. It's just breathtaking, the contrast between the rough textures with the brilliance of the glass."
If his dedication to the craft is any indication, Borsari is one man who really loves his job. His work begins each day at 5 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m., when he eats dinner, then goes to bed.
" It ain't work, it's fun!" he said proudly. "Oh God. I love it. "
His plan for the next few decades or so is to just keep doing what he loves.
" I'll be doing it 'til I can't" he said. "I had one customer who said he comes to Morgan County every 30 years. I told him to make sure to visit the next time he's in the area.
" I'll still be here."