Up the stairs to Barney Zeitz’s bedroom, light peeks in from the stained glass pieces on the wall, leaving purple and blue shadows on the wood. The railing on the right, welded by Mr. Zeitz, curves alongside the stairs until it meets his and his wife’s bedroom door.
“That’s one of the first windows I actually saved, it was a keeper,” Mr. Zeitz said of the leaded stained glass window in his room, depicting winter trees with a glowing red sun. He made it when he was 22 years old.
“I did the closet doors, and that’s my drawing,” he said of the black and white seascape with hills rolling from one door to the next. “I call it The Water View I Can’t Afford. And here’s my favorite little kitty.”
He reaches down to pet his furry cat sitting luxuriously on the purple bed, looking rather king-like with the beautiful emerald light fixtures hanging on either side and light waving in from the stained glass window above.
Across the room is a centerpiece made from crushed glass that, when the light hits, looks like a glowing crystal from a science fiction movie — elegant and enchanting.
“There’s something about that light coming up from below,” said Mr. Zeitz.
And that’s just one of the rooms of his house.
On Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m., Mr. Zeitz is hosting an open house and studio for all to celebrate his 40th anniversary of working as an artist on the Island. There could be no better area to showcase his work than Mr. Zeitz’s house itself; every corner of his home, which he designed and built, is filled with pieces that show the evolution of his work through the years.
In the 1970s he taught himself how to create leaded stained glass, then mosaics, and then fused glass, experimenting along the way.
“I started welding because I wanted to be able to make my own frames,” he said.
The typical wood frames made the glass look bulky. So he thought he would give welding a try.
“Mostly I did a lot of this stuff because I just wanted things for my house,” he said.
Welding opened up a whole new outlet. Mr. Zeitz started doing light fixtures — like the chandelier that hangs in his atrium, outdoor furniture, and even sculptures, many which are on display in his own backyard.
Others can be seen around the Island, like one of his favorites called Wings, at the Point Way Inn in Edgartown, or another favorite, the Osprey, at the Granary Gallery. The osprey, which took more than three months to complete, is made of forged and welded stainless steel, with a wingspan of 50 inches.
“Nobody would have thought to make a directly-welded sculpture like this,” he said. “They would make a wax form and hand it to a foundry and cast it in bronze. It would look very different and you wouldn’t get these details, like the feathers.”
The feathers curl up gently from the osprey’s body, giving the illusion of flight. And when the sun hits the sculpture, the wings shine like gold.
The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center commissioned Mr. Zeitz to create a stained glass window, and he often restores stained glass windows for churches in the community.
Mr. Zeitz has performed work off-Island, too, starting with a memorial at the Rhode Island Holocaust Museum.
“That was my first sculpture — it was 12 feet tall and weighed about 4,000 pounds,” he said. “I built it over there with a tent around it.”
He points outside from his studio window, which he built in order to fulfill a commission. The 15 by 17-foot window grid was once his canvas for a stained glass window set now in Queens, N.Y.
Now light floods through it into his ever-changing studio, where tools and masks hang on the walls; past drawings and sketches are stacked about, and coffee cans of crushed glass collect in corners.
“It’s a little bit crazy but that’s how I live,” Mr. Zeitz said. “I think that’s what I want people to know when they’re coming over is that they can see everything. Like this is the first sketch I brought up to Queens, and here’s a sketch of an outdoor shower.”
Next to his kiln are shelves of sheet glass stacked like vinyl records, only more fragile.
“I don’t throw anything out which is part of why the place is so messy,” he said.
But the scraps can always be reused. The sheet glass can be smashed into pieces and made into a mosaic. A cobalt glass centerpiece that broke by accident is now a mini amphitheatre for some little welded characters.
“Oh, this guy works with me, this is Mike,” said Mr. Zeitz, introducing a thickly bearded man entering the studio. “He makes seriously big swords.”
“Giant swords,” said Michael Caughwell. “They’re replicas of ones from video games.”
“They weigh about 60 pounds,” said Mr. Zeitz.
“I’m not insane!” Mr. Caughwell insists. “People pay me for them. Anyway, I’m just dropping something back, then I have to scoot off again.”
The two men chat for a bit about Mr. Zeitz’s birthday gift of charcoals for his assistant, and then he’s off.
“That’s the best thing that ever happened, when Mike showed up,” said Mr. Zeitz.
“I’m 61. I welded this osprey by myself. Ten years from now I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. Welding is physically abusive, there’s heat, there’s spray, I get stuff in my eyes all the time. It’s smelly. People think they want to weld but they really don’t . . . but I love it.”
He continues showing things around his house, pointing out a small kerosene lamp.
“This is the very first lamp I made for my parents,” Mr. Zeitz said. “There’s something from every period of my life in this house.”
His charcoal drawings of family and friends fill the walls, colorful lights dangle from the ceiling, and outside the furniture, shower and arbor shine in the rain.
“I did all this stone work,” he said of the steps around the door. “These came from a church in my home town.”
“Everything took years, I didn’t just say, ‘Oh I’m going to build this arbor now.’ I didn’t have the money or time. One year I did the footing, then the stones, then the arbor, then the sculptures.”
From tiny mosaics to a majestic arbor, Mr. Zeitz has filled his home not just with pieces of art, but pieces of himself from the past 40 years.
“When you do something for yourself it’s more pure. This is what I do just for art’s sake. It’s art I do for me.”