Versatile journeyman finds inspiration in glass

Richard Reece artwork

SUN PHOTOS BY TOM CHANG, Richard “Rick” Reece is a disabled artist. Area churches took notice of his work and members have started buying his glasses.

PLACIDA — Richard “Rick” Reece found a calling in life as a glass artist after working as a jack-of-all-trades in many dangerous jobs.

Over the years, his work resulted in numerous health problems but the well-traveled Venice resident said he holds no regrets.

Instead of doing hazardous work for others, he is now an artist.

“I’ve been doing this for over four years,” Reece said. “I just made $450 last week.”

Richard Reece

Disabled from a life of dangerous work, Richard “Rick” Reece has become a painter.

Originally from Whittier, Calif., Reece, 63, started working as a lumberjack when he was 17.

“I remember a work related accident when a cedar fell on me,” Reece said.

Reece was living free as a runaway and a hippie without a care in the world until he had a motorcycle accident in San Diego, Calif.

“My motorcycle was in the ocean,” Reece said. “I had a dislocated shoulder, contusions on my head, and I had a hole in my leg. I decided to stop drinking.”

Reece spent a significant portion of his life bouncing around from job to job. He was a truck driver, hauled sod, trained as a cook and baker, drove a taxi and picked fruit.

“I spent some days as a migrant worker,” Reece said. “I even picked up a few Spanish words.”

Reece’s life of adventure and labor took its toll, eventually rendering him disabled. Following a stint as a painter for Boeing, he experienced kidney failure from unfiltered chemicals in his work environment, he said, and he is now going through dialysis. He’s also diabetic and has heart problems.

His drive and spirit didn’t diminish, however. He started painting glass using single-brush techniques after watching the Donna Dewberry Show on TV.

“I use Purdy brushes because they’re the best,” Reece said. “Nobody can paint faster than I can.”

People started noticing Reece’s work after he participated in “Coffee Talk,” a program at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Venice where people can use food pantry services to supplement their income and members from various congregations can socialize.

Mary Beth Runk, the day-to-day manager of Coffee Talk, brought two of Reece’s glasses home to her husband, Wes Runk, interim pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Gulf Cove.

Hope Lutheran Church was looking for a practicing artist to participate in the Saturday Placida Arts and Crafts Market.

“I viewed (Reece’s glasses) as an answer to a prayer,” Wes said.

Reece’s work has been acknowledged by some at the Placida market as among the finest painted glassware they’ve seen, Wes said. Hope Lutheran members purchased “a lot” of Reece’s glasses.

Reece charges $10 for large glasses and $8 for smaller ones. He offers discounts for large orders.

Meanwhile, his health struggles continue.

Reece’s daughter is offering one of her kidneys to her dad for a kidney transplant, scheduled for the summer.

“I told her she didn’t have to, but she insisted,” Reece said. “I’m an AB blood type, the universal receiver. I’m still looking for a donor until then. The sooner the better.”

Reece originally moved from Oregon to Florida to scuba dive for sharks’ teeth. He said it didn’t go as planned. He is actively seeking assistance finding an apartment.

If you’re interested in Reece’s work or would like to help, call 541-206-1895.

Richard Reece painting wine glass

Richard “Rick” Reece started painting wine glasses after watching the Donna Dewberry Show on TV. His work has attracted some attention at the Saturday Placida Arts and Craft Market.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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