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Stained Glass to Lift the Spirit and Keep the Rain Out
By: Dennis Roberts

Today's stained glass technology is changing rapidly, and there is a multitude of techniques and materials available to meet the needs of churches. The two most common used today are Leaded and Faceted (Dalle de Verre) glass. 

So, what's the difference?

Leaded glass lends itself much more to traditional design elements than faceted or Dalle de Verre glass. Dalle de Verre has a more mosaic approach to design. The medium is somewhat more contemporary and is best viewed from a distance than up-close. A leaded glass panel will weigh approximately 3.5 pounds per square foot, and faceted glass will weigh approximately 13 pounds per square foot.

Leaded glass will allow much more illuminating light into a facility depending on the types of glass used. Dalle de Verre glass does not allow a significant amount of illuminating light into a facility.

Solving Your Stained Glass Needs
A successful installation of stained glass is the direct result of a team effort. Committee members, clergy, architects, builders, and stained glass artists all have a hand in the process. This can place a considerable challenge on those managing the project. By being informed and organized, understanding the challenges, and making decisions based on sound information, the task can be much easier and completed successfully.

As the stained glass is planned, designed, and built, the role of the committee will go through several key phases. Here is an overview of these phases:

Planning for the Windows
This is a time for those responsible to gather information, get organized, and establish timelines and milestones. There should be some discussion of what kind of window is desired, budgets, and resources that are available and any limitations that may apply.

Artist Selection
Choosing an artist can go in different directions; the committee may schedule a series of studio presentations, or possibly hold an open competition. In a competition, the committee may review work from several studios, then inviting two to three studios to develop designs for your specific needs. Any time a studio is asked to develop designs, they should be compensated for their work.

In scheduling interviews with a series of studios, general information should be discussed regarding the scope of the job (i.e., location, content, style, budget, framing, etc.). The committee should review previous work from each of the studios and request to visit with the artist designer who would be working closely with them to ensure they will develop a good working relationship. It is important at this stage to determine the design style, subject matter, and an appropriate budget for the project. Different styles require different complexities, which directly affect the budget. The budget, in turn, can also help to determine which design approaches are possible.

After selecting the artist/studio, go over the detail of the plan, explaining the flow of traffic, the purpose of different rooms and spaces, typical building users and visitors, style of architecture, decor, and probable color schemes, etc. Explain as much as you can about the environment to which the window will belong. If possible, visit the site together so that you can see how the windows lay to the sun. Look at the view that will be seen through the window. Will other buildings eventually be built there? The artist needs to discuss whether you want this background obscured partially or completely, and should already have a variety of suggestions for you to consider. By meeting with the artist early in the project, you may have greater control of how larger windows are broken up into smaller panels. These break-ups can have a dramatic impact on design. 

Whatever the selection process used, the committee's responsibility is to be well-organized and to manage the process efficiently and fairly.

The design phase begins after the initial meeting between the client and the studio. A design philosophy should be developed, taking into consideration the needs and desires of the congregation and the budget. This phase generally takes place over the course of two or three contacts. It is common for revisions to be made or for certain elements of a sketch to be changed and then compiled into the final design. When preliminary sketches are approved, a scaled full-color sketch is then presented for final approval of the design, along with glass samples representing the colors and textures to be used in the project.

Several things need to be accomplished in order to gain the status of "signature art" for a congregation. 

1. The complexion of the congregation needs to be established. Are they drawn to contemporary vs. traditional styles in art? What ministries the church is involved in?

2. Is the primary purpose of the work to focus on outreach to the community or for those participating in worship?

3. Is there a central message that is to be illustrated?

4. The architectural style of the building and setting are important. Art should enhance the space and not be a distraction.

5. Light is a key component. Is there a need to control the light?

6. Is there a view outside the window to be blocked, or is there a desire to see out the window?

Once these needs are identified, then design becomes an issue of using line (as in the lead lines), value, color, and texture to develop a design.

An easy way to impress some people is to find amazing glass and use it in the boldest, most dramatic fashion. Novelties wear off quickly, and there must be more to glass design than the use of "gee-whiz" technical effects, especially in windows that will become a part of people's lives. The contrasts of color and intensity in stained glass are greater than that of most other media and need to be treated with respect and control. In some instances, the color scheme can be muted, even monochromatic, so as to support the meditative environment.

Line and Form
In contemporary glass design, the lead line has taken on a far more important role than in the days when it was treated as scaffolding for the glass pieces. Lead is the major graphic tool available to a stained glass designer. We not only use it to describe the edges of shapes but also to suggest strength, direction, speed, grace, balance, harmony, decay, etc. By its very nature, stained glass is and has always been a truly abstract medium, and this is mostly due to the inescapable presence of the lead line. The window must be visualized as glass and lead, using the inherent qualities of both.

Architectural Integration
Stained glass is an integral component of a building and is tied to the architecture more than any other art form. The glass should enhance the space and should not overpower the space. There are definite lines the architect has designed within the space, and the stained glass should enhance these and not work against them. An experienced glass artist will know how to interpret your needs and develop the kind of design that will work with the space. A window is never just a window.  It is part of an environment and can push or pull on that environment as needed.

Fabrication and Installation
In this final phase, the artist and contractor/owner set schedules for delivery, scaffolding arrangements, and installation of the work. It is important for the committee, early into the process, to make sure the windows frames have been modified to receive the stained glass. In most cases, fabrication of the art glass will not begin until the studio has been able to make field measurements of the frames after they have been installed into the building. After field measurements and the approval of the full-color sketches, a full-size drawing is created. This is a black-and-white drawing called the Cartoon. The Cartoon defines the lead lines and painted details. Working drawings and patterns are made from the Cartoon, and these are used for glass cutting, painting, and assembly of the window. When possible, some studios will encourage the committee to come into the studio and view the full-size drawings, along with the full sheets of glass to be used in the design.

Dennis Roberts is the owner and chief artist of IHS Studios, www.ihsstudios.com.

Protecting & Preserving Stained Glass Windows
By Valerie McCartney

Often, we see beautiful, well-maintained churches with protective glazing on the exterior of the stained glass windows, which detracts from the intended beauty of the building. On the church pictured, as with many such installations, no care had been taken to align the mullions with that of the stained glass frames, and a polycarbonate type of glazing, prone to discolor, was used.

This congregation was dedicated to preserving and maintaining their church, which was built in 1911 by their ancestors and founding forefathers. Through fundraising, pledges, careful planning, and budgeting, they were able to achieve their goals. They located a stained glass studio that guided them in creating a two-year plan as part of the conservation and restoration of 15 stained glass windows.

Approximately 15 years prior, angle iron had previously been attached to the interior of the wood frame in an attempt to add strength after church members witnessed the frame flexing during the high winds of a Michigan winter. The wood framing, though beautiful, was not adequate thickness to accommodate the weight of the stained glass. Changing the framing was not an option, due to the fine, elaborately detailed keel molding of this frame, which added greatly to the beauty of these windows. 

The sashes and frames of two monumental Catherine wheel windows were removed and reinforced with carbon fiber. Carbon fiber reinforcing is a process in which internal sections of the frame are adhered together via epoxy mastic with carbon fiber placed between. This system of one-inch bi-directional carbon fiber has the equivalent tensile load bearing capacity of a 3/8-inch-thick steel plate.

The stained glass studio and a building restoration company coordinated their skills and efforts to preserve the intended beauty of these windows. After the studio had removed the stained glass panels, the restoration company removed the monumental frames.

Damaged sections of the frame were repaired, and missing or rotted sections were replicated.

After the carbon fiber process was complete, congregation members who had the desire to be involved in the restoration were allowed access into the work area to refinish the frames.

When the restoration of the stained glass and the frames was complete, the two companies coordinated their installations.

Adding to the joy of Easter 2008 services was the completion of this window restoration project.  The carbon fiber reinforcing process, developed specifically for this project, added necessary structure to support wind load and preserve the delicacy of the intricate keel moldings in the tracery. This restoration process allowed an important architectural element of the church to maintain the original design with no visible modification or protective glazing. 

Valerie and John McCartney have owned and operated Full Spectrum Stained Glass, Inc. in Colon, Michigan, since 1988, www.churchwindows.net.

How Safe Is Your Stained Glass Heritage?
By Fred E. Dennison

After 47 years in the stained glass business, I have learned that it is almost impossible for churches to prepare for a disaster, particularly when there is little or no warning, such as during a tornado, fire, or flood. 

The "missing link" to the true preservation and protection of stained glass begins with good stewardship.

No matter how exquisite or basic the design, a stained glass window will need both maintenance and protection to remain inspirational. Most leaded glass is exposed to the elements, where the deterioration is slow but continuous, eventually threatening the life of the windows.

When preventative maintenance is lacking, major restoration is often necessary. One of the most common problems is bulging, which occurs where the window buckles along weakened, deteriorated lead lines.

Bulging is usually a reaction to the massive weight of the window and/or long-term exposure to the elements. Good stewardship would be to restore the window during the bulge's embryonic formation, rather than in the advanced stages of buckling, when restoration of your investment could be very expensive.

Here are a few suggestions that might make good stewardship easier in dealing with disaster preparedness.

1. Protective Covering
Today, a family of versatile glazing materials offers unmatched protection for fine art glass and exceptional design flexibility for architects. For every need that may exist, there are numerous options: plate or float glass, tempered glass, laminated glass, acrylics and polycarbonate.

However, it would be wise to have a credible stained glass company help you choose the best option that would meet your needs. The protective coverings should, ideally, be installed in heavy-duty, anodized vented, aluminum framing systems.

2. Stained Glass Survey
Consider enlisting a stained glass company to prepare a pictorial documentation and written evaluation of your windows.  This would include an "in-situ" photograph of both interior and exterior views and a thorough written evaluation of the condition of each window.

This survey would document the micro-environment of the window (for example, the condition of the corrosion of lead, missing or broken wire ties, broken glass, deformed framing, sizes of the panels, and widths of the leads and designation as to flat or round). 

In the event of a natural disaster that may destroy or severely damage one or more of your valuable stained glass windows, or panels, your stained glass survey would enable a stained glass studio to replicate almost exactly the missing or damaged window. This valuable survey could also include an appraisal of your windows, which would help you maintain proper insurance coverage so you could afford to replace or repair the damaged windows.

3.  Service Agreement
Consider a service agreement with a credible stained glass company that would keep your church on their list for periodic maintenance evaluations. This could be done for a nominal fee and could save you a great deal of money in the long run.

Fred E. Dennison is stained glass conservator and co-founder of Stained Glass by Shenandoah, Inc., www.stainedglassbyshenandoah.com.

Product Roundup

Powell's Stained Glass
Powell's Stained Glass designs, manufactures, and installs stained glass to fit your style and budget.  With more than 25 years of combined experience, the staff at Powell's Stained Glass will be happy to assist you with any glass needs you may have. Powell's has excellent references you may contact at any time. Whatever your design preference (traditional, contemporary, or abstract), let Powell's help you with your next glass project. They offer free estimates and consultations in the Southeastern United States. 

Krinklglas is a good stained glass alternative for any church budget. Krinklglas is an economical alternative to stained glass that is as durable as it is beautiful. These Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) Panels are virtually indestructible, impervious to the elements, and will not deform under heat nor crack in extreme cold conditions. It is easy to clean, as graffiti and paint are easily removed with common cleaners or solvents. Their staff can create custom artwork, duplicate your existing design, and match any color. 

Stanton Glass Studio
Bryant Stanton, who first learned the art of stained glass by making sun catchers, founded Stanton Glass Studio, LLC, in 1979. Stanton Glass Studio works with Texas' finest designers and architects, handcrafting leaded glass into inspired architectural windows and lighting. All designs are created in house by founder Bryant Stanton and artist Joe Barbieri. Services offered by Stanton Glass include restoration, custom commissions, educational seminars, window evaluation, repair, hot glass vessels, and custom wood work.

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Religious Product News