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Keeping the family tradition

New Lenox girl created stained glass art for school

NEW LENOX – Wow! I can’t believe you made it.

That’s the reaction Kylee Rinke, 12, of New Lenox, heard from friends about her 81-piece, 3-foot eagle with wings spread flying over a mountainous background. The stained glass art now is in the office at Oster-Oakview Elementary School in New Lenox, where Kylee attends school.

“When I gave it to my principal, she was really happy and said, ‘This is cool,’ ” Kylee said.

Kylee’s donation echoes a similar one that her sister Jamie Kealey of Joliet, now 27, created and donated for her school. Jamie had made a 2-foot, circular stained glass Indian brave for Chaney-Monge in Crest Hill, said Kylee’s father, Jim Rinke of New Lenox. That piece, he said, is still visible when one enters the school.

Kylee’s Eagle, in honor of the school mascot, took Kylee 100 hours to create. It was installed in December. Principal Theresa Bauman said Kylee had asked permission to create something for the school but had not anticipated its detail.

“It’s amazing and more than expected,” Bauman said. “I’m proud of all her hard work.”

Kylee’s parents – Jim and Wendy Rinke – both craft stained glass items, although each had learned separately, before their marriage.

Seventeen years ago, Jim, seeking a hobby, took classes at Alpine Stained Glass in Plainfield, where, unbeknownst to him, Wendy also had taken classes. The two met on a blind date more than 14 years ago.

“When we got together, I told her I did stained glass,” Rinke said, “and she said, ‘Oh, I do stained glass, too!’ ”

Their interest inspired Jim’s father, George Rinke (now deceased), to also adopt the hobby – except George’s only formal training, Jim said, was asking Jim to “show him a few things.” George created sun catchers with religious themes: crosses, doves with olive branches and Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

As Jamie’s nursing career took off, she had less time for stained glass, Jim said, but two years ago, Kylee started hanging out with Jim in his workshop and asking, “What’s this?” and “What’s that?”

“I slowly started showing her the steps and how to use the glass cutter,” Jim said. “She got the hang of it pretty quickly.”

One year, as a family, the Rinke’s made a stained glass likeness of “Ore Train to Geneva” by Howard Fogg for Wendy’s father, who had worked at a railroad for almost 40 years, Jim said.

Kylee had only made one small stained glass piece on her own before tackling the eagle, but Jim wasn’t surprised when she decided to do it.

“As a family, we feel it’s important to give back,” Jim said. “Because she’s a straight-A student, she wanted to give something back to the school as her way of saying, ‘Thank you.’ ”

Kylee echoed her father’s sentiments.

“My teachers are nice to me and helped me learn a lot of what I know today,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why not give back to my school for doing so much for me?’ ”

Kylee is now working on an 18-inch sunset glass catcher for her bedroom. Each year, Kylee’s family goes to the beach, where Kylee loves to simply sit and watch the sunset.

“It’s so beautiful that I wanted to capture it in stained glass,” she said.

Kylee Rinke’s steps to creating stained glass art

1. Start with an easy pattern and then draw or trace it.

2. Pick out your glass.

3. Use a glass cutter to cut straight or curved pieces around the pattern pieces. Be careful so you don’t cut yourself.

4. Grind out the glass in the shape of the pattern. Use safety goggles when grinding because it does splash. I’ve scratched myself grinding glass once or twice and it does hurt.

5. Put copper foil around the edges, smooth it out and put the glass back onto the pattern.

6. Use a soldering iron to solder the pieces together. Be careful not to burn yourself because the soldering iron is very hot.

7. Patina the solder from silver to black and wax the glass.

• Parental supervision is strongly encouraged while undertaking this type of project.

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