How a local dentist found his passion for stained-glass artistry

Story by KJ Burkley

Photos by Audrey La

Mark McCall, a steady force in Waco dentistry for the past three decades, displays his passion for stained glass artistry.

The 63-year-old dentist has now entered his 36th year of dental practice, and nearly two decades of creating stained glass artwork.

McCall’s practice and caring outreach is what led him into the world of stained glass.

“I had a patient that did stained glass,” McCall said. “Every time she would come in, I would always ask her many questions about it. Finally, she told me, ‘Mark, why don’t you just take a class and learn about it?’ I always thought that one day, when I retired from dentistry, I wanted to create stained-glass art. But she convinced me to start while I was still practicing.”

McCall fell in love with the craftsmanship of stained glass. His hobby has produced colorful, original and inspired artworks.  His work includes stained-glass guitar lamps, ceiling trimmings and portraits, all displaying a collection of vibrant colors, shapes and textures that illuminate a creative charm.

One signature piece of McCall’s collection is a stained-glass guitar lamp. McCall says inspiration for this artwork came from researching ideas online, as well as his love for acoustic guitar music.

“I saw some posts about these on Pinterest,” McCall said. “They were guitars that had been made into wall lamps. I ended up watching YouTube videos on how to take a guitar apart. Once I did that, I traced the guitar body so I could make the stained glass fit.”

McCall draws from other sources for inspiration. Many of his artwork pieces feature aspects of dentistry, such as tooth and toothbrush stained-glass designs. McCall’s art also features other influential aspects of his life, such as God, biblical themes and his favorite sport: tennis.

“Stained glass has always interested me,” McCall said. “I would go into church buildings, and I’d see pictures of cathedrals and castles in Europe with amazing stained glass works. I always wondered how stained glass is made and how the artist would craft in such a way. It’s always been a curiosity.”

McCall began to display art pieces in his dental office, along with making interior and exterior improvements to reflect a dental office with the aesthetic of hominess. The office displays many of McCall’s works, including stained-glass guitar lamps, sky lights, and ceiling beams.

Most of McCall’s pieces include glass that varies in color and texture. With thousands of stained-glass choices, McCall must carefully choose what color and texture fits according to design and its overall appeal of the entire artwork.

After designing the pattern, the next step is to trace the design on paper. This is followed by cutting the outline out, gluing the paper onto the glass selected for that piece, then cutting the glass. Once all the glass is cut, McCall uses the copper foil method, which is a copper foil strip with adhesive on one side. The foil is placed on the outside of each piece.  Once all the pieces are foiled, they are placed and secured on the pattern. This is concluded with soldering the foil to keep every piece in place.

This process can take hours, even weeks to produce a single piece. One medium-sized piece can be worth several hundred dollars, depending on the type of piece, glass used and labor. Between this and dentistry, McCall has yet to explore making stained-glass artwork for profit.

“I’ve done very little commission work,” McCall  said. “Most of the time, people don’t want to spend the kind of money that it takes for me to make a piece. It’s great gifts to my family and friends because they really appreciate my pieces.”

Even without commission work, McCall still established an identity for his hobby. McCall’s niece came up with his hobby name, MarksGlass. McCall expanded publicity of his work online and has drawn much attention in the news world. The Waco Tribune-Herald featured McCall in a 2011 article about his artwork, and in the Spring of 2019, Texas McCall was born in Abilene, and spent his grade school years in Roswell, New Mexico. McCall then found his way back to Texas for college, where he enrolled at Abilene Christian University.

McCall graduated from Abilene Christian University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1980, where he also met and married his wife, Kim McCall, one year after graduating ACU.

He said that he was undecided on a career when he went to college but was convinced by his friends and roommate to pursue dentistry.

“I had not a clue of what I was going to do with my biology degree,” McCall said. “Several of my friends were pre-dental and got accepted into dental school. They asked me to apply to dental school, and I wasn’t sure. Then, my first roommate, who completed a year of dental school, came back to show me what they do in the lab. When I saw what he was doing, I thought this looked like something I would enjoy.

McCall went to graduate school at the University of Texas at Houston Dental Branch to earn his DDS in 1985.  McCall said he always had an appreciation for artistry, whether it be through practicing dentistry or stained glass. The artistic process and vision for art is what grasped his attention during his last year at Abilene Christian.

“In your first year of dental school, you make your own restorations,” McCall said. “You make your own crowns and your own inlays and onlays. You wax them up and cast them to shape their appearance. When I got to experience this, I realized that dentistry is a craft, it’s an art.  The process of waxing up, casting and fabricating the restoration was the experience I enjoyed the most.”

After graduating from dental school, McCall joined an existing practice in Waco. After a year and a half of being an associate, he partnered with Dr. David Rhoden to practice together over the next decade.

In 1997, McCall and Rhoden dissolved the partnership to allow them to build their own individual practices, which eventually led him into Biomimetic dentistry.  Columbus Avenue Smiles continues to provide complete dental care to the city of Waco in the exact same buildings when McCall came to Waco.

When starting his solo practice, McCall’s wife, Kim McCall, aided him in bridging the aspect of dental care in a manner that is caring of its patients and appreciative of the arts as a dental office manager. Kim McCall said she had little experience in that area when McCall went solo but was ready to help shape McCall’s vision of great dental care and artistic vision.

“I remember when I first started working with McCall at the office,” Kim McCall said, “The building looked very clinical. Everything was gray, and the furniture was old and shabby. I told Mark if I work here, it needs to look nice. I wanted the office to look and feel warm and inviting, as if we were inviting people into our home. That’s when we got the idea of a comfortable environment that incorporated the authenticity of Mark’s art.”

Running a full-time practice and creating stained-glass pieces demands long hours of commitment and patience from McCall. McCall said that creating ideas, finding glass, and the process to craft pieces can take a long time.

“The entire process is very time-consuming,” McCall said. “It’s not extremely difficult, but a good challenge can be the designing stage. You have to figure out what type of piece you want and what glass you want to use. It takes a ton of time and demands you to have a vision for what you want.”

Although both careers are laborious, Kim McCall says McCall balances both graciously because he enjoys spending much of his time and energy crafting art in both ways.

“He’s very good at both dentistry and stained glass,” Kim McCall said. “I think it’s great for him to do stained glass because it’s an extension of his artistic side, along with dentistry. Stained glass gives him more space to be expressive and creative. He’ll turn on music in his glass workshop at home and he will spend hours working away on a project. It’s a good outlet for him.”

Nearing his 40th year anniversary in dentistry, McCall continues to display his artwork through the smiles of people and stained glass artistry. McCall said he considers one day moving to committing full time to his craft, as well as doing other hobbies that have inspired his artwork over the years.

“I would most definitely take MarksGlass on full time,” McCall said. “I would do everything I love. I would do stained glass more, play tennis, and just enjoy life. I think that my career has given me the opportunity to enjoy everything I love with and through each other, and to experience it with the people I love most.”