‘It’s the most rewarding thing to do,’ says Belper’s very own queen of cut glass

Jo Cuffley hard at work in her Belper Studio.
Jo Cuffley hard at work in her Belper Studio.

“Some struggle to even find the shop in the first place,” says Jo Cuffley, owner and chief creative force behind the Craft Studio in Belper.

Having wandered around the marketplace for ten minutes until a friendly pub landlord pointed me in the right direction, I have to agree.

The Craft Studio, Belper

The Craft Studio, Belper

Once inside the Aladdin’s cave that is Jo’s domain, however, any difficulty in finding it is quickly forgotten in wonder at the amazing artistry on show there.

At the moment I enter she is working on a huge, complex, multi-coloured stained-glass window for a primary school in Stoke, rich in Christian symbolism and poignantly dedicated to a much-loved teacher.

The piece has taken months to get to this stage and is still some distance from completion.

Unfortunately for Jo, however, she does not charge by the hour.

A beginners class decide on which colours and shapes to use.

A beginners class decide on which colours and shapes to use.

“You win some and you lose some - some sell for decent money and don’t take too long and some take forever and don’t.”

“I don’t just do it for the money though - I do it for the art.”

However, as well a creating astonishing pieces like the one for the school, Jo supplements her income by running workshops for people interested in creating a piece for themselves.

She said: “People come from all over - we get lots of local people, but also people who have been bought gift cards from relatives in Derbyshire and people who just found out about us from the Facebook page.

A hen party enjoying painting pots.

A hen party enjoying painting pots.

“I think people enjoy being creative and the act of making something but it’s also very therapeutic and relaxing as well.

“I try to teach them the method and then let people do what they want with it.

“Just one colour makes such a difference - beauty is so much in the eye of the beholder.”

Jo runs the workshops for beginners, as well as a more advanced class for those who want to take it further.

One of Jo Cuffley's stained glass creations.

One of Jo Cuffley's stained glass creations.

She also hosts birthday and hen parties, team building exercises and works with people with learning disabilities.

As well as all this she regularly opens up her studio for ‘paint-a-pot’ days where people can just wander in and paint something using her equipment.

These have proved so popular, however, that booking is advised, especially in school holidays.

Jo came to her current career after many years working in graphic design - creating packaging for toys and cosmetics.

She left, however, when the advent of computers took the enjoyment out of it for her.

Jo has now been making windows for 17 years and teaching for the last ten.

One of Jo's creations.

One of Jo's creations.

“I prefer doing old-fashioned things - there are very few shortcuts with this.

“It is an unusual activity and not many do it anymore.

“The glass breaks, you can cut yourself and are supposed to have your blood tested regularly for lead poisoning.”

Despite this, Jo’s workshops are fully booked until May. The taster one-day sessions she offers are priced at £55 and the two-day advanced classes are £210.

“The beginners make light-catchers with pre-cut glass which they solder together themselves whereas the advanced group actually make a small window but it is a really intensive two-days of really hard work,” she said.

“The artistic skills are probably the least important element of the process - for the advanced groups it’s about learning the craft.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to be doing this - it is the most rewarding thing to do.”

As well as design, manufacture and tuition, Jo can also repair and restore windows from people’s houses and can even incorporate stained-glass into double-glazing if required.

If you are interested in joining a workshop or any of the other services she provides, contact Jo on 01773 687140, email jcstainedglass2@gmail.com or visit www.thecraftstudiobelper.com.

Examples of pots painted by customers.

Examples of pots painted by customers.