How to tell Professional Stained Glass Artists from Hobbyists

How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I do stained glass.” Or even: “My great aunt makes stained glass pieces.” You see stained glass supplies on shelves at Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby, and you might wonder…how does someone become a professional stained glass craftsman? What is really the difference? How is a studio like Stanton Glass Studio different from my great aunt’s craft room?

There are a number of differences between a professional stained glass studio and a hobbyist’s shop, and it is important to know for future reference in deciding which shop to use for an art piece.


If a stained glass studio wants to be competitive and valid, it needs to carry the seal of accreditation by the Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA). This is the highest form of validity for a glass studio in the United States. The Stained Glass Association of America is the oldest trade organization in the country, established in 1903. Accreditation with the SGAA is a long, detailed process that takes a couple of years to complete. This involves a committee viewing a studio’s financial standing, satisfied clients, letters of recommendation, photographs of installation and past works, and in-person visits from the committee to job sites and the artist’s studio. The top stained glass studios in the United States are all accredited by the SGAA. If your potential studio does not carry this seal of approval, ask about where they are in the process of accreditation. It’s important! Also, a studio can be a member of different guilds like the American Glass Guild and chambers of commerce for their respective areas. This is a sure way to tell the pros from the hobbyists!

SGAA logo


How long has the studio or artist been in business? A month? A year? Twenty years? Experience is key to quality work. Artists who are starting out are great to support and encourage! But for large, expensive projects for your home or business, it would be best to ask the artist how long they have been working in glass. A professional makes their livelihood out of their art. A hobbyist usually uses stained glass as just that…a hobby. Experience sets the pros apart.

Licensed Business

Does the artist have a licensed business that is registered with the state? Do they collect sales tax? Does the studio have a physical location? Anyone can run a glass shop from their garage and make stained glass for fun, but you want to find a professional business that is licensed to create and sell their craft.


Artistically Advanced

Do you like the artist’s style and designs? Does his or her work “speak” to you? Can they explain the inspiration behind their art to you? Does the glass piece seem advanced and well-crafted? A hobbyist will make the same piece over and over again because they buy pre-made designs. A professional will take the time to design and create a personal art piece for every client.

Intricacy of Design

Going along with the last point, a professional will exhibit detailed, intricate designs in his or her work. If a stained glass piece has poor solder joints, ragged copper foiled lines, or gaps between the lead and glass, then it is probably not a professional piece. A pro will have a high level of expertise in many kinds of stained glass making, like hand-painting, beveling, fusing, copper-foiling, and leading. A hobbyist is usually producing rudimentary pieces of stained glass.


Check to see if the stained glass artist has a website with a portfolio of past work. Do they have professional photographs of the studio’s art pieces? Look to see what their past work looks like and if it lines up with the look and feel of what you are wanting for your own art.

Presentation of the Studio

It is always a good idea to personally visit the studio of a potential artist for hire. A professional stained glass studio will have a clean and organized­­ look. The employees should be dressed professionally. Most importantly, the studio will be meeting all safety standards with masks, goggles, and gloves.

Knowing the difference between a hobbyist and a professional is very important when choosing a glass artist. Ask questions and do some research to make the best choice!

Stanton Glass Studio, LLC is an accredited professional studio with the Stained Glass Association of America and a member of the American Glass Guild.

Contact us for more information about selecting a glass artist!

safety in stained glass
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