Anyone who knew Michael Limberakis would tell you that he didn’t look through glass.
Instead, the talented stained-glass artist took a hold of glass and made it or restored it into something elegant and beautiful.
A window wasn’t a portal to see the outside world; it was a canvas for the world to see his creativity.
Sadly, Limberakis – 55, of Lambert Avenue – passed away this week from a sudden and unexpected stroke that occurred in his sleep.
Limberakis moved to Chelsea nearly 20 years ago and set up his acclaimed stained glass shop, World Glass Arts, in Chelsea 13 years ago. He has kept a studio in the basement of a Beacon Street building for the last eight years.
“I come in at 7:30 a.m. because I love what I do,” he told the Record recently. “There are very few days I don’t want to be here. Sometimes I can’t wait to come to work. This is my livelihood.”
But he also said he didn’t always know that he wanted to work with stained glass.
Growing up in Holbrook, he said he liked to play with colored glass in his backyard, around the pool, watching it catch the light. However, once he grew up, he tried several occupations without a lot of success.
During that time, he had enrolled in a stained glass class so he could make a Tiffany lamp. It wasn’t that easy. He found it very hard to even make a rudimentary dragon fly sun catcher. But he got the hang of it and soon became quite skilled.
He worked for other stained glass artisans honing his craft, and eventually set out on his own.
“I worked for one company that was not 100 percent behind its work,” he said in a recent interview. “I didn’t like that because I liked the personal touch. I decided to start my own business and put that kind of effort into my work. That’s really big for me. I make things like they’re going to go in my own home.”
That formula seemed to work because his business flourished, even in the recent down economy. Contractors came to know to bring him specialty work, and homeowners in places like Brookline, Dorchester, Newton, and even expanses like Peabody’s Brooksby Village Assisted Living Community, had him first on the list of stained glass artisans to call.
He said he set out to make windows in old homes and church buildings that would stand the test of time and last another 100 years.
“If I could just make a tape the sighs and oohs and aahs I get when people first see what I’ve done, I’d put that in my portfolio,” he told the Record. “On woman had to sit down to look at it. That was quite a compliment, and that kind of stuff keeps me going.”
Limberakis also loved living in Chelsea.
His neighbors in Prattville loved having him on their street, and children on their way home from school always liked to peer through the window of his Beacon Street studio to see what colorful project he was working on.
He told the Record that he had often thought of moving his home and business farther north – to a place like Danvers – but could never bring himself to make the decision. He always ended up deciding that his life and his business would more likely flourish in Chelsea than in the far north suburbs.
“My clients actually love coming to Chelsea,” he said. “I’m only one exit from Boston and I’m right under the Tobin Bridge. I have no problem getting them to Chelsea for appointments. Many have said they enjoy the trip.”
Limberakis’s legacy will be seen all over Greater Boston in the colorful windows of people’s homes probably for another 100 years despite his early exit from life. In particular, he said he was proud of the work he did on the turret of a Chelsea home at 295 Washington Ave.
“That was all about my integrity,” he said. “It took me more than one year to get it straight. I did so much measuring to get the glass just right and match the old glass just perfectly. It came out great, and I am proud of that.”
Limberakis’s expert artisan hands may be gone from Chelsea too soon, but the brilliant light of his life will shine on with his friends, his neighbors, and the expert work he has left behind.