A Trip into Heritage Stained Glass in the US and its Conservation

Thanks to the generous support from the Storylines Art Bursary by Mark Furner MP for Ferny Grove and the James Whitney Workshop/Seminar Scholarship by the Stained Glass School/Stained Glass Association of America, I recently had the opportunity to spend few weeks in the US to further my expertise in glass conservation, in particular for heritage stained glass.

During this trip I spent some time at the Corning Museum of Glass (NY), visiting and working with Stephen Koob, Fellow of the International Institute of Conservation and the American Institute for Conservation, who is responsible for the care and preservation of all of the Museum’s collections.

 

Under Stephen’ mentorship, I have practiced conserving some damaged glass objects, including a vessel created by Frederick Carder in his carrear at Corning. I also had a chance to visit the museum and assist to the end of residency demonstration by visiting artist Dane Jack (blown glass).

 

After my time in Corning, I travelled for few days to Boston, MA, visiting some churches with heritage stained glass on the way. In Boston, I had the privilege to see a number of stained glass panels by Tiffany and La Farge, among others, including some installed in Harvard University’s Memorial Hall, generally not open to the public.

Once left Boston, I travelled to New York where I visited the Bullseye Glass Resource Center New York, the Queens and Brooklyn Museums, and the Claire Oliver Gallery (a commercial gallery that is the sole representative of Judith Schaechter’s stained glass work).

 

After New York, I travelled to Bryn Athyn, PA; not before having stopped in Princeton, NJ to admire some great stained glass from Tiffany Studios, depecting St George, and in Millville, visiting WheatonArts – the Museum of American Glass.

 

Once in Bryn Athyn, I had the opportunity to participate in a heritage stained glass conservation workshop, lead by Steve Hartley, with the help of Kenneth Leap. In the workshop, we had the opportunity to work on and examine a number of medieval and heritage stained glass panels. I also had the chance to return to Philadelphia to admire Tiffany’s Dream Garden mosaic and some stained glass in a church and in the local museum.

Next, I continued my trip and I drove to Washington, where I returned to visit the Washington National Cathedral, including the Stained Glass Association of America’s annual exhibition. Details of glass panel by Kathy Barnard below.

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Finally, I concluded my journey in Los Angeles.  There I visited the St. Timothy’s Catholic Church, which has several Harry Clark’s windows, and the Forest Lawn – Glendale – Great Mausoleum. There, I had the chance to see ‘The last supper’, the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci, but in the form of a stained glass window. The museum also had on exposition a few wonderful panels by Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich — but the greatest collection of Mayer’s windows in Los Angeles was in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. A true art supper for the stained glass lovers.

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I will post on this blog some stories and images from my trip, including images of Tiffany’s stained glass and lamps, La Farge stained glass masterpieces, fantastic glass artworks from the Corning Museum of Glass, and much more. So, keep looking!

The Positive Symbolism of the Peacock – A Wedding Commission

The peacock bowl

Few months ago, I had the great pleasure of designing and realising a very special wedding gift: a Peacock Bowl. I started by creating about 11 different designs (see some examples below); after few hard decisions, the customer set on one design.

A design for the peacock plate
A design for the peacock plate
Another design for the peacock plate
Another design for the peacock plate

Before taking this commission I was wondering about what the peacock represents in the symbolistic tradition, iconography, and across cultures; so I searched for more information about positive meanings associated with the peacock.

In my searches, I discovered that this beautiful bird is a symbol of dignity and grace. In the Chinese and Buddhist cultures, the peacock represents freedom and wisdom; in other cultures it is also thought as a symbol of eternal life.
Beyond these, the peacock is also the symbol of beauty, good luck, compassion and kindness. The peacock is also often used to represent wholeness, patience and nurturing.

Detail of the selected design for the peacock plate
Detail of the selected design for the peacock plate
Detail of the design of the feathers
Detail of the design of the feathers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some cultures this elegant bird is seen as bringing the message that there are no limits to our dreams and anything is possible if we believe and trust the universe.

I think the peacock resembles a very powerful mix of symbolism and beauty and it offers a powerful message to the newly wedded couple.

Details of the feathers in the peacock plate
Details of the feathers in the peacock plate
Details of the feathers in the peacock plate
Details of the feathers in the peacock plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the selected design I create a kiln fused glass bowl, which was further engraved to emphasise the texture of the feathers, along with the wishes from the client that commissioned the gift.

The peacock plate
The peacock plate

“The Visitation” at The Cloisters

The stained glass window “The Visitation” at the Metropolitan Museum/Cloisters (New York City) captures a scene from the life of the Virgin Mary described in the Gospel of Luke. I saw this window in my recent travel to the US last September and it particularly fascinated me. This is the first of a number of blog posts I will dedicate to my 2016 US trip.

 

The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; full window.
The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; full window.

If you are not familiar with the story of the visitation, here is a brief version, before we get to look at the window. After the Annunciation, Mary leaves Nazareth and goes to the city of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In the Christian symbolism, Mary’s visit represents her intention to bring the divine grace to Elizabeth and her unborn son. At that time, in fact, both women were pregnant; Mary carried Jesus and Elizabeth was pregnant with  John the Baptist.

I just love the climate of this stained glass window: there is something warm in it.  The window transpires compassion, calm and joy. The women are holding their hands and touching the arms, witnessing the strong friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, along with their familiarity and fondness.

The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; detail of faces and hands.
The Visitation @ Met Cloisters; detail of faces and hands.

The faces of Mary and Elizabeth are very delicately painted. Their traits are brushed up with only simple lines but they still are very beautifully executed. The chance in pressure of the brush when the paint was applied to the glass produced lines of different width, creating a sense of movement and dimension. This may give you the feeling that this window is rather “modern”, but instead it dates back to the late medieval time (1444).

The stained glass originally was installed at the Carmelite Church in Boppard-am-Rhein (Germany); now the window is conserved at The Met Cloisters in New York City. The window is also important in the stained glass history because with the use of an angular style in the drapery folds and the juxtaposition of colours, the author initiated a new glass painting style in the Middle Rhine region.

Sunrises and Sunsets in Fraser Island

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Inspired by a recent visit to Fraser Island and by some magnificent sunsets and sunrises I had the luck to see, I created a new glass and metal sculpture. The sculpture is a cube and each edge represents one of those wonderful sunrises and sunsets in Fraser. Inside the cube there is a LED light I designed. In addition to the main large cube, I have also created some smaller cubes, all in glass.

cube

The glass sculpture is currently on display and available for purchase at Sydney’s Glass Artists’ Gallery.

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Restoration of Leadlight in Paddington

This leadlight really needed urgent attention. As you see from the two pictures below, the lead had cracked and bowed, and some of the glass pieces have gone out of the lead came. The leadlight was installed on a door in a cute worker cottage in Paddington; being on a door, the leadlight was subject to frequent movement.

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After removing the leadlight, I completely rebuilt the panel, using new lead and replacing the broken glass. The panel was then reinstalled in place with the help of John from JayBee Woodworks, who restored the timber trims. You can see the great result in the photo below.

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Coasters for Zena’s 12th birthday

Ready for shipping!

Zena, the beloved pharaoh hound of my dearest friend Maureen Cahill, owner of the Glass Artists’ Gallery in Glebe (Australia’s foremost contemporary glass gallery), has turned twelve. To celebrate Maureen commissioned me to design and create some celebratory glass coasters for Zena to give to her personal friends.

The coasters to celebrate Zena's 12th birthday.
The coasters to celebrate Zena’s 12th birthday.

I created two designs – one with Zena’s profile and the other picturing Zena in her famous sphinx pose (see Zena’s picture below, taken few years ago). The glass coasters have been created with coloured glass powders and fused in the kiln. Afterwards, the coasters have been engraved to highlight Zena’s profile and Zena’s name has been sandblasted on the glass.

Zena in her famous regal pose; image by Jill Carter-Hansen.
Zena in her famous regal pose; image by Jill Carter-Hansen.

And below, my studio assistant Darra gives his seal of approval on the consignment.

Darra gives his seal of approval.
Darra gives his seal of approval.

Queensland Resource Council Awards

I was pleased to be contacted by the Queensland Resources Council to created a series of gifts for their Resources Awards for Women awards, ahead of the QRC/WIMARQ International Women’s Day Breakfast event. The commission of 6 bowls was based on my kiln-formed open plates series (plates from this series were also commissioned by the Queensland Government in 2014 for gifting some G20 representatives, see my previous blog post). The new plates for this award had to capture the colours of Queensland’s soil and geological resources, as well as violet, the colours symbols of the suffragettes movement.

One of the plates created for the Queensland Resources Council.
One of the plates created for the Queensland Resources Council.

The breakfast was held on May 8, 2016 when the trophies were presented to all the winners (congratulations from Glass Artistry). In the photo gallery below you can see few more images of some of the plates and the winners.

Leadlight restoration at Our Lady of Victories is now finished!

We have now finished the restoration of the leadlight windows at Our Lady of Victories in Bowen Hills, Queensland. The heritage-listed church was hit by the violent thunderstorm that devastated many Brisbane suburbs in November 2014. The image below show some of the damages done to the church’s window as we photographed in our original survey.

Broken windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD)
Broken windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD)
Damaged leadlight panel, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged leadlight panel, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged semicircle leadlight, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged semicircle leadlight (fanlight), Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restoration involved repairing more than 80 windows. Of these, most were removed from their original timber casements for reconstruction, while attempting to salvage as much original glass as possible, and match the new glass with the original one. Those with minor damage and no structural concern to the lead were repaired on-site.

The matching was not easy: the windows were originally crafted by the RS Exton Studios, a painters and decorators trade who used to have their warehouse in Brisbane CBD and closed their stained glass business in 1958. The windows of the church date back probably to 1924. The original glass is not produced anymore, and the production processes and colours have since then changed. We managed to recoup some old glass through some stock we had acquired from older stained glass businesses and some demolition yards. However, for a large quantity of glass, we had to commission a custom manufacturing to some glass companies in the US to be able to match the original glass as close as possible. David from Hartley and Williams was of great help in coordinating the sourcing of this glass.

Rebuilding one of the main leadlight panels
Rebuilding one of the main leadlight panels
On the way to remove leadlights from the tower.
On the way to remove leadlights from the tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main damages were concentrated on the south side of the church; however a number of windows throughout the floors of the church’s tower were also damaged; their restoration involved the use of a crane to remove the windows, replace them with temporary perspex (transparent acrylic sheets), and after few weeks replace the restored windows in place.

On-site reparations at Our Ladies of Victories.
On-site reparations at Our Ladies of Victories.
When we remove the panels, we place temporary perspex to keep the weather out and the sunlight in.
When we remove the panels, we place temporary perspex to keep the weather out and the sunlight in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of a poor reparation, carried out in the past, using silicone and cardboard to fill the gap left from a broken glass
An example of a poor reparation, carried out in the past, using silicone and cardboard to fill the gap left from a broken glass.

Through the restoration process it became evident that the windows had undergone several reparations in the past, not all carried up to the highest standard. Some glass was replaced with glass that was of completely different tonalities when compared with the original glass, compromising the original history of the windows. Other glass was installed using glues or silicones: this practice is not just an eyesore, but it also puts under serious risks the integrity of the lead that gives the structure to the windows.

 

Previous repairs have not put much attention in maintaining the original characteristics of the windows: here you can see a clear colour miss-match for one of the diamond shaped glass from a panel in the church's tower.
Previous repairs have not put much attention in maintaining the original characteristics of the windows: here you can see a clear colour miss-match for one of the diamond shaped glass from a panel in the church’s tower.
Another patchwork of colours due to previous poor quality repairs. It is always difficult to match colours that are not produced anymore, but the differences in colours of the glass used for previous reparations is way too big.
Another patchwork of colours due to previous poor quality repairs. It is always difficult to match colours that are not produced anymore, but the differences in colours of the glass used for previous reparations is way too big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damaged semicircle leadlight, Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Damaged semicircle from Our Ladies of Victories in Bowen Hills (QLD).
One of the restored large semicircle leadlight (fanlight).
One of the restored large semicircle leadlight (fanlight).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The damaged windows are now all restored to their original appearance. The larger windows are composed from two strips of four top-hinged hoppers, mostly filled with green diamond mullioned glass. The green colour of the windows is to commemorate the armed forces of World War I. Above these panels is placed a semi circular window glazed with a leadlight panel depicting a rising sun, which, continuing with the commemoration of the WWI armed forces, recalls the symbol of the First Australian Imperial Force AIF.

Some of the restored leadlight windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Some of the restored leadlight windows at Our Lady of Victories, Bowen Hills (QLD).
Our Lady of Victories, in Bowen Hills (QLD).
Our Lady of Victories, in Bowen Hills (QLD).
The church's cross, which was also damaged in the 2014 hail storm, is now back on the top of the tower.
The church’s cross, which was also damaged in the 2014 hail storm, is now back on the top of the tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeronga’s Heritage Queenslander Restoration

I have recently completed the restoration of 6 leadlight panels from a heritage Queenslander home in Yeronga, Brisbane, built in 1924. The panels have a lovely floral motif and intense purple and aquamarine colours. While the panels were not damaged in the 2014 Brisbane hailstorm that heavily damaged a lot of heritage stained glass windows in the area, they did suffer the harsh Queensland sun and the lead was crumbling down.

One of the leadlight panel before restoration. The lead is crumbling.
One of the leadlight panel before restoration. The lead is crumbling.
Detail of one leadlight panel showing bowing in correspondence of the flower motif.
Detail of one leadlight panel showing bowing in correspondence of the flower motif.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, the same motif was present in other leadlight windows around the house’s veranda: these windows were in immaculate conditions because soon after building, the veranda was enclosed to add more indoor space to the house.

Restored leadlight panels and timber frame casements installed in place at the heritage-listed Yeronga residence.
Restored leadlight panels and timber frame casements installed in place at the heritage-listed Yeronga residence.
The restored windows shining through the night.
The restored windows shining through the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the leadlight panel during the rebuilding phase.
One of the leadlight panel during the rebuilding phase.

 

 

 

The restoration of these windows  was carried out in 6 weeks and all the panels were rebuilt from scratch maintaining the same width and type of lead cames. Few glass pieces were broken but fortunately we were able to match the original glass with some heritage glass we had in stock in Glass Artistry’s studio, thus maintaining the original design: at Glass Artistry, we always strive to matching the glass that needs replacement as close as possible.

The restored leadlight windows installed in the Yeronga house.
The restored leadlight windows installed in the Yeronga house.

Along with the restored panels, we provided to the owners a full report detailing the status of the windows. We also organised for the restoration of the original timber frames of the leadlight windows. Once we removed the leadlight, my collaborator John Britnell from JayBee Woodworks took all silky oak frames apart, brought them back to bare timber, reconstructed the damaged portion by inserting matching silky oak. John then stained the internal part of frames by carefully recreating the original stained and also recoated the external part of the frames.

John from JayBee Woodworks completing the installation of a leadlight panel into its timber frame casement.
John from JayBee Woodworks completing the installation of a leadlight panel into its timber frame casement.
John and I applying the last touches to the restored timber frames with the installed leadlights.
John and I applying the last touches to the restored timber frames with the installed leadlights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owners of the restored leadlight panels sent me a very kind email of appreciation of the restoration works:

Hi Magda,
As you know, both Shirley and I are extremely happy with the service you have provided in the restoration of our windows.  You showed the utmost care, from understanding our needs at the beginning of the project, through to the planning and execution of the work.
Your skill and artistry has added a great deal of heritage value to our home, and we would not hesitate to recommend your services.
So, thank you again for your professionalism and for the obvious passion you have for your craft, you really looked after us.
All the best for the future, and our sincerest gratitude for all your efforts.
Warm regards,
Luke Harrison
 
The restored leadlight panels ready for installation.
The restored leadlight panels ready for installation.