By Tori Hamby

Denver resident Alan Schaeffer began his hobby making glass dollhouses as a way to connect with an old friend and now he is displaying one of his creations to the public for the first time.

Schaeffer’s most recent piece, “Winter Lodge,” will be on display at Art Glass Works in Cornelius for the next few months. Schaeffer is selling the dollhouse for $1,300.

Art Glass Works owner Alan Coyle said he normally doesn’t display other artists’ work in his stained glass studio, but made an exception for Schaeffer.

“The glass that he uses is a lot harder to work with,” Coyle said. “It’s higher quality.”

Coyle said he used to make three-dimensional buildings using glass earlier in his career, but Schaeffer’s work takes the concept to a higher level.

Schaeffer spends about two to three hours each day building his glass creations. In his garage, which he converted into a studio, he cuts each individual piece of glass, wraps the sides in a thin adhesive copper foil and then uses solder – an alloy – to fuse the pieces together into frames. The frames are assembled to create the freestanding structures.

Aside from the artistry involved with his hobby, Schaeffer said, dollhouse making takes a good deal of engineering know-how and skill.

“If you don’t understand where the stress (on the glass) is going to be when you assemble the house, then the glass breaks,” Schaeffer said.

The “art glass” that Schaeffer purchases from a wholesale warehouse in New Jersey costs about $60 a sheet, but specialty types could cost as much as $300.

Schaeffer picked up his hobby from a longtime friend, Rudy Chillino, in 2002 when he lived in New York. Chillino had been making the dollhouses for years – without sketching his ideas on paper – before giving the houses away to friends.

After Chillino gave a dollhouse to Schaeffer’s wife, Schaeffer – a former modeler – asked his friend to teach him his craft. Chillino died from cancer around 2005.

“I spent the last three years he was alive just sucking every bit of knowledge out of him,” Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer’s created a total of nine houses over the years – one took him about a year and a half to complete – each taking on average about 250 hours.