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Beth Alphin's art brings past, present together

April 25, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- In the fall of 2001, Beth Alphin opened Studio B in her home near Hagerstown Regional Airport so she could satisfy her dream of creating stained-glass artwork.

"I always had an enjoyment for stained glass," Alphin said of the business she started with her sister-in-law. The fact that she never had any prior training barely slowed her down because it gave her so such pleasure.

More of an avocation, Alphin's expertise grew with time. Her home is graced with many examples of her work, which she crafted using the copper foil technique that she prefers because it expands and contracts over time.

Alphin's zeal recently has been piqued by a project that has strong history for one Hagerstown church, a reflected glow for another and a source of great pride for the Alphin family, which has ties to both churches.

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In the 1980s, Alphin's late brother, Jim, bought a large quantity of walnut panels that once had been part of the chancel rail at The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown.

"Jim put the wood in the loft of his barn," Alphin said. Apparently, her brother had been planning to use the panels to create a balcony in that barn.

After he died in 2001, Alphin found the wood in her brother's loft. She came up with a plan to use the wood - now nearly 150 years old - in combination with her stained glass in a unique project.

Alphin has adapted 22 of those walnut panels to accept stained-glass inserts of her own creation. Many reflect themes present in the existing stained-glass windows in the historic downtown church.

Now a member of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Williamsport, Alphin has decided to offer between 16 and 18 of the finished panels for sale, with proceeds benefiting the Presbyterian Women's groups of both churches.

"Everything in each of the windows is original except for my stained glass," Alphin said.

Drawing upon craftsmen who specialize in working with old wood, Alphin feels she has combined the best of the past and the present in the stained-glass panels.

"I'm willing to work with people who want something special, but the cost will be more," Alphin said. She says $500 will be the cheapest any of the panels will cost, considering the old walnut alone is a bargain at that price.

Alphin said all of the original wood shapes were handmade and beautifully crafted.

"They should be owned by someone who will appreciate them," she said.

The Rev. Kyle Powderly said he is awed by Alphin's work.

"The members are so taken with her gift to The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown," he said.

Several examples of Alphin's work are prominently displayed at St. Andrew, particularly in the new fellowship hall. There are four large panels above the doorway and another six in the Legacy Room at the Williamsport church.

Alphin grew up in Washington County, where her father, Thurman Alphin, owned a business known as Alphin Aircraft.

A graduate of James Madison University, Alphin taught physical education and coached at Penn State University from 1967 to 1985. She later was alumni director at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa.

For information on acquiring one of Alphin's stained glass/walnut frames, call The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown at 301-739-6337 or St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Williamsport at 301-223-8887.

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