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FOR THEM, THE GLASS IS ALWAYS FULL.

Byline: Carol Rock Staff Writer

STEVENSON RANCH - Debbie Levy is in over her head.

In chandeliers, that is. A swap-meet and junk store aficionado, she finds discarded and neglected light sculptures and brings them back to life in her Stevenson Ranch garage. You might call her an elegant recycler, as she rescues and rehabilitates the works before finding them new homes.

A variety of completed works hangs from the rafters, awaiting inspection and negotiation. She's not looking to make her millions in light fixtures, but does expect to cover her overhead.

A cherub in white iron. Elegant branches of metal leaves holding beveled drop crystals. Porcelain roses peeking out from an intricate creation, drawing the eye upward.

No run-of-the-mill hanging lamps here.

``When we find them, they're nasty,'' she said. ``They don't look anything like this.''

Her partner in grime is her husband, Lawrence, who has his own lost-art obsession: stained glass. The two haunt flea markets up and down the coast of California looking for abandoned decorative glass.

Lawrence laughs when Debbie talks about some swap meet acquisitions. ``When she sees something, she walks away and I get the sign,'' he said, holding his left hand down and wiggling his fingers. ``That means I need to go in and negotiate.''

Years of work in the restaurant and automotive world have given him some good bargaining skills, but it's his stained glass that gives him a real sense of accomplishment.

``There are a lot of houses around here with our work in it,'' he said, gesturing up the street. ``We started out giving things to our children, then selling it to our friends and acquaintances.''

``It's a great way to increase your circle of friends,'' Debbie chimed in.

Both Levys have a flair for the ornate. Lawrence's brother is a renowned glass craftsman, and the gift of a French chandelier from Debbie's mother was enough to launch her into the chandelier business.

Debbie's first chandelier was a vintage brass piece from the 1930s that she cleaned up and painted. ``The first thing you have to do is take all the rust off and clean it,'' she explained. ``Then I paint them - I mix all my own colors.

``I thought these were amber when my husband brought this home,'' she said, fingering a glistening clear crystal on a wall sconce. ``It must have hung in a bar or restaurant somewhere.''

She says that a few hours soaking in dish soap is all most crystals need to regain their original luster.

``It'll shine like a new penny,'' she said, unhooking a crystal with ease.

It's nearly impossible to remember what the floors in the Levys' home look like, because a walk-through demands that visitors look heavenward. Twelve chandeliers adorn various rooms, including two in the master bathroom (over the tub and the commode), one in each of the closets, the laundry room, the bedroom and living room and, of course, the foyer.

Lawrence's largest project looms ahead: a 5-foot-by-5-foot creation for a neighbor. ``It's the biggest one I've ever made!'' he said.

``We have a great life,'' she said, pointing out Lawrence's beveled glass windows strategically placed throughout the house.

He bends over a large table and rubs a toothbrush gently over seams where pieces of glass were soldered together. He prefers the old style of blending the glass where each piece is edged in copper before being soldered, as opposed to manufactured pieces that use shortcuts.

``When you look at something created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, you see bubbles and imperfections,'' he said. ``That's because every piece was made by hand, carefully, not mass-produced. That's the beauty of it.''

Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252

carol.rock(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Lawrence Levy works on a stained glass window at his home in Stevenson Ranch. He crafts decorative glass pieces with his wife, Debbie, who restores chandeliers.

(2) A chandelier created by Debbie Levy hangs in her Stevenson Ranch home.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 19, 2004
Words:667
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