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Window Shopping at Glass Images

Here’s the thing I love about Guerneville: it doesn’t take long to go from casual passerby to insider. Sure, you can start off as a just-blew-in tourist, but within moments, you’ll suddenly find yourself immersed in the whole scene. The entire town feels like an instant invitation to go with the flow.

I got a pleasant little reminder of this fact last weekend while walking down the tiny vacation town’s main drag. One minute, I’m popping my head into a store looking for postcards; the next, I’m learning how to make stained glass.

“I cut the glass, wrap it with copper tape, and solder it back together,” Rebecca Lichau of Glass Images is telling me, about 60 seconds after I wander through her doorway. Actually, she’s not telling me so much as she’s narrating: as she speaks, she really is tapping precise shapes from a large sheet of glass atop a worktable behind the cash register.

Lichau’s been making stained glass for over 30 years, ever since she noticed her neighbor, a hobbyist of the art form, making an awful lot of noise next door one day. Lichau went over to see what the ruckus was all about; by the time she went back home that day, she’d agreed to give her neighbor design advice in exchange for lessons on how to make stained glass, herself. And for the last 22 years, she has been selling her whimsical creations here, out of her Guerneville storefront.

This is the kind of place you stop by if you just haven’t realized yet that you’re in the market for a handcrafted glass butterfly, or a reading lamp that’s going to glow with soft color, or a delicate, translucent humming bird to catch the light in your living room window. But, more often than not, Lichau says, customers come in knowing exactly what they want: memories of their time in Sonoma County. “I do a lot of California poppies and redwood trees,” she explains.

Lichau also does a large amount of custom work, including entire windows commissioned by clients all over the world. Most of the work on display in her store, though, could easily fit inside a suitcase. You’ll just want to make sure it’s a very well padded one.

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