I moved to Martha’s Vine yard May 1, 1972, spending that summer doing odd jobs, painting houses and teaching myself to do stained glass from a book. I was 21, a college dropout, and wasn’t sure what I was looking for.

After messing up a bit (trying to solder without flux) I managed to put together a leaded stained glass lampshade on a kerosene base and put it on David Crohan’s piano at the Rare Duck Lounge on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. It sold the first night and the friends of the buyers ordered a hanging lamp for their house. It was certainly a great beginning and a clear message from above. That was 50 years ago.

Over the course of these years, I have lived behind a store in Vineyard Haven where I made and sold a variety of decorative objects to people coming in off the street just up from the boat on Union street. Then I spent 12 years on Dukes County avenue, living and working in a building owned by Mollie Kahn. She was a wonderful landlord, allowing me to work and live for a very reasonable rent. She encouraged me to explore my medium in more spiritual ways (she had studied painting with Hymen Bloom, a true master in visionary art, living in Boston). She had kilns and welding equipment left over from her previous business, Newton Potters, and I got to experiment with glass fusing using chemicals for glazes that she made available.

Subsequently, I developed style of fused glass that was different from the glasswork available elsewhere. I started to get commissions for sanctuaries in Pittsburgh, Nashville and Washington DC, and Island locations at Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, Grace and Trinity Episcopal Churches for memorial windows. I took a welding course at the high school in adult education on six Monday nights, and have been welding metals ever since, going between glass and metal and combining the two mediums. I have always spent time drawing in various mediums; by drawing you learn to see.

When I outgrew the space, I found an old foundation near the Scottish Bakehouse and, together with bartering and good deals from all the washashores like me, I built a home/studio that I have lived and worked in for the last 35 years. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to build memorial sculptures for Holocaust, Vietnam War, immigrants and diversity themes in metal, and large glass windows at Maple Grove Center in New York city.

Living on Martha’s Vineyard for 50 years has had its challenges, being very quiet in the winter and way too busy in the summer, but I have always met people here that have led to jobs elsewhere. From an Island recommendation I received a wonderful commission in a German church and former synagogue that took four years to build and help fundraise.

People are interested in the arts here and there are a lot of craft makers who can team up to do artisan fairs. I met many a client in the parking lot at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury with the artisans festival. But more important than that, the Vineyard has a real sense of community. I have lived in many worlds here, doing modern dance with Vineyard Dance, Aikido with Sean Connelly, yoga with various teachers and a figure drawing group — each activity for a decade. Deep connections are made. There are book groups I have been in, encounter groups, therapy groups, hospice bereavement groups, and twelve-step meetings.

The Vineyard has community. It also provides isolation to get the work done, whatever it may be.

I started late having a family. I was 42 years old when my wife Phyllis Vecchia and her son Elliott came to live with me. Then Phyllis and I had a daughter Kae when I was 46. Raising children opened up another whole world of opportunities for community — playgrounds, hockey, break-dancing, skateboarding, soccer, lots of soccer and parent teacher conferences. What a wonderful place to live. I have done my fair share of worrying but feel blessed at 71 years old to have had all this time to create and learn something about myself.

Thank you Vineyard.

Barney Zeitz lives in Vineyard Haven.