Imagine my surprise.

For weeks, my wife had been vanishing every Saturday morning. She might have babbled something about her plans at one time or another, but somehow I missed it. So on a sunny Saturday morning, I endeavored to find out what great thrill she had found out there to tempt her away from home on a sacred weekend.

My investigation led me to a former Slovakian church. Inside, I found the vast space filled wall-to-wall with such things as a farmer constructed entirely of glass, butterflies of every hue and myriad other things in a universe of glass.

Not to mention the live scorpions, tarantulas, millipedes and hissing cockroaches.

It sounds made up, I know. But it’s true, every word.

The Maine Art Glass Studio in Lisbon is an eclectic place. It’s raison d’être (art places make me crave French phrases) is as a full-service art glass studio. There is working space in a basement where laymen learn the craft of glass art, fusing, open flame torch-work, pottery and painting.

Upstairs is a wild museum of glass of a nature that I cannot quite describe. Stained-glass lamps are everywhere. There are sculptures, sun catchers, jewelry, lamps, butterflies and beetles immortalized behind glass cases, glass walls with panels of every color. The museum is a tribute to things that are dazzling to look at and fragile to the touch.

If I was cuckolded, it was by transparent sheets of colorful glass as my wife learned yet another craft. On the lower level of the Transylvania-looking church, my wife was at work.

“I just thought it would be cool to try. And now I can design a few things, and I’m excited because I can replace our broken and ugly kitchen light covers with something prettier – and something that I created,” Corey said, obviously wracked with guilt for her wandering. “I made the standard apple and pear sun-catcher that they have students start with. Now I’m working on a larger piece based on a quilt block that I like.”

Harlot!

To blame for this rampant indulgence are Jim Nutting and Denise and Nel Bernard. Together, they own the place and bring something like four decades of glass art experience to the place. They custom design art glass for the home or business. They are called upon to restore antique glass and they teach civilians the ancient craft (it dates back to Egyptian and Roman empires, you know).

So, I watched my wife in the act of this new affair with a grozer, a cutter and some stud called a burnisher. And she was not the only one thusly engaged.

“We get a lot of women, of course,” Nutting said of his classes. “But we get a good share of guys, too. It’s a mixed bag.”

Nutting and Co. set up glass art workshops for various groups: Cub Scouts, special needs classrooms, church groups, etc. And while his glass work is very impressive, I was most wowed by what I found upstairs.

There, in glass cages with not-quite-secure-enough-lids-for-my-comfort, can be found a skin-crawling range of creatures from around the world. Cockroaches from Madagascar — the size of matchbox cars — hiss from one cage. Disturbingly large cockroaches glow blue under fluorescent lights. A black widow spins her web for a frightening number of horrifying black widow babies.

Corey allowed a 10-inch millipede to wrap around her wrist while I cowered behind a nearby cage. But that was no help because inside that cage was a tarantula the size of a softball. Backing away in horror as Nutting lifted the arachnid from its glass prison, I bumped into another aquarium housing a poisonous centipede.

All of these critters are alive and eager to play, I should point out.

“Each of us here has over 30 years in teaching stained glass,” Nutting said, and I swear he sounded like Vincent Price. “And I’ve got 50 years in catching bugs.”

The bug collection is amazing. At some places that specialize in creatures — such as you will find in the Southwest — you will pay $25 or more just to look at some local scorpions and maybe a rattlesnake or two. Nutting has the best from around the world and he likes to show them off — in classrooms or on tours like this one — for just $3 a head or $50 a group.

“People can get an up-close experience,” Nutting said. “They love it. They absolutely love it.”

Weirdos like my wife can pet a tarantula or play with millipedes. Sane people like myself can check it all out while maintaining a sprinter’s stance in case quick retreat is called for.

When you add this creepy, crawly menagerie to the splendor of stained glass below, this unique place takes on a tone of Beauty and Beast. An absolute must stop whether you’re looking to learn a new craft, curious about exotic bugs or wondering where your wife has been wandering to every weekend.

Maine Art Glass Studio, 51 Main St., Lisbon Falls 353-6700 or 1-888-781-6700

www.maineartglass.com

Monday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday, Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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