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Stewardship and Stained Glass
By: John Watts

The most important aspect of a studio's work in the restoration and conservation of stained glass is an unwavering respect for it. Every panel of stained glass, in every setting, was designed and handcrafted for that specific individual setting and purpose.

Each church with stained glass knows that it represents an important aspect of its life and environment. Windows are the basis for prayer and meditation. Each window has an imperative significance to the viewer. Stained glass has long been represented as a gift from God, its vivid colors and patterns inspiring the viewer. Medieval belief was that each piece brought with it a blessing from above. Today, these windows deserve the same respect.

While studios covet the addition of windows by Tiffany, La Farge, Le Compte and a myriad of other famous studios to their portfolios, the studio, as the assigned caretaker, must never lose site of the fact that all stained glass windows were created for the same purposes and settings. The care of all stained glass windows should encompass respect and meticulous attention, regardless of the window's pedigree.

 At our studio, we believe the reason for our success is in the personal attitude we take as caretakers. Each window is as important to us as are the signature windows. Churches have a right to know that their stained glass windows are being treated with the same stringent standards and values as are given to a named studio window. A catalogue window from a 1900’s studio or a private studio window have as much intrinsic value to the owner as a Tiffany would. Giving the windows the respect deserved is an important component of a successful relationship between the church and the studio.

Many times, studios get caught up in the quest for work. They neglect to understand that the work performed on a client's glass is meaningful and of profound importance to that client. Churches believe that theirs is the most important project the studio is working on, because, to them, it is! Studios have a need to constantly and consistently understand and acknowledge the importance of every window they touch, regardless of whose name appears on it. Each of the works a studio restores, or designs, for that matter, is a Tiffany to its owner.

Knowing that their windows are in the hands of a studio that understands the importance of the work and its value to the owner can lead to a better understanding and trust between the studio and the client. Working with the client in accordance with accepted standards, such as the Standards and Guidelines for Restoration of Historic Stained Glass, (Brief 33) by the National Park Service, the Stained Glass Association of America or the American Glass Guild, is an integral part of the process. Respect, quality, service and price are equally valuable.

You, the church steward, should be looking to do business with people who understand the value that your stained glass has to the congregation. Studios should be able to communicate with you, their clients, and support the value of the project. A studio contact person who has the ability to deal with the questions and concerns of each client is an invaluable asset to both the client and the studio itself. A hands-on approach to all clients is a necessity to the success of any studio, whether it be the owner, partner or sales rep. Churches want and deserve the one-on-one relationship with someone who is knowledgeable, understands the value and importance of the work being performed on their windows, and values the standards and guidelines under which the work is being done.

Caring for the client and keeping them informed should be the norm. Just selling the job and getting it done may be what studios think it is all about, but the church has entrusted their windows to a stranger. The church is not "just another customer." Churches have a need and a right to be kept informed of the progress of work on their stained glass, and to understand that the studio cares about their glass and the project in total. The value of the stained glass, or its signature, should have no bearing on the quality of work, or its price. Stained glass restorations should not be priced based on whose signature is on the glass. Studio work should be priced on doing the right work for each window and panel, while maintaining a pure respect for the glass.

The studio you contract with should offer a caring attitude. Each piece a studio takes in, each panel, each window, should be treated as though it is a one-of-a-kind, high profile, signature piece. It really is, to the congregation. Studios need to be open and honest in their assessments and pricing. They should constantly understand that the attention to detail and sensitivity to the work itself are equally important, regardless of who did the original work or the size of the job. Small to midsized studios are as capable as larger studios, and, frequently, they are able to offer more one-on-one contact with the client. While price will always be a factor, personalized service and respect for the glass is a requirement of the stained glass industry. Quality craftsmanship, fair pricing, unwavering dedication to accepted standards and practices and an unbiased respect for the glass are of paramount importance to you, the church.

In the end, you, the stewards of the church, should be able to develop a lasting relationship with the stained glass studio you choose. The sting of poor quality and lack of care always lasts longer than the enjoyment of a low price.

John Watts has over 30 years’ experience in the field and has worked on a variety of stained glass works, from historic one-of-a-kinds to residential and architectural glass. He is one of the founding partners of Glass Heritage, llc, a stained glass restoration company located in the Midwest, www.glassheritage.com.

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