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A thousand years of beauty

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Stained glass scene Photo: SGO Designer Glass

Photo: SGO Designer Glass

Bring the timeless elegance of stained-glass into your home

In much of its 1,000-year history, stained glass has been associated with churches and religion. More recently, it became noteworthy due to the famous lamps created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. These days, your home décor can showcase the elegant beauty and whimsy of this ancient artform.

Lynette Richards of Rose Window Stained Glass in Terrence Bay, N.S. uses lead came, metal H-shaped and U-shaped strips, molded between pieces of mouth blown glass, hand painted with vitreous paint and kiln baked. Vitreous paint is made of finely powdered glass which fuses together during the baking process, melting and becoming one smooth, durable piece of coloured glass. It’s a skill, a passion, and a labour of love she learned through an intensive three-year apprenticeship with a European master glazier. “Each piece I make has to be important enough to last a thousand years,” says Richards.

One of Richards’s current projects uses different types of clear glass. Samples of the glass sit on her work bench, patterned with varying textures. Those set-in place surrounded by the dark came in Gothic curves are moving. “It’s the light and the dark working together,” says Richards. This piece will be a stunning addition to a client’s home.

Richards combines the attributes of light and darkness with movement and stillness, creating windows worthy of their longevity. It’s these qualities that give stained glass the beauty and the power to move people.

In stained glass, as in life, we need the darkness to see the light.

Sheet glass manufactured by machines produces uniform material, which provides protection from the elements, while allowing light to pass through. Light passing through old style, mouth blown glass, dances with movement, creating unique patterns. For Richards, it was these observations which initially drew her to stained glass and have kept her at it for more than 20 years.

Modern approaches to glass art make the artform more accessible. The method of copper foiling, introduced in the late 1800s by Tiffany Studios, meant pieces became decorative additions without architectural considerations. Further developments include mosaics, glass fusion, overlays, faux stained glass painting techniques, and even vinyl
peel-and-stick film.

Dave Pye of SGO Designer Glass in St. John’s, N.L. makes a career out of adding beauty and light to homes using stained glass overlay. “It combines multiple materials (glass, multi-layered polyester film, bevels, jewels) to form a solid piece of decorative art glass. The finished product has the look and feel of traditional stained glass, but with the strength and integrity of a solid piece of safety glass.” 

Clients of both Richards and Pye begin with a consultation to discuss numerous options. Some prefer a traditional looking piece while others see an opportunity to add a unique touch to their home. 

“Our unique overlay process allows for designs not available with regular stained glass,” Pye says. “We can do everything from cabinet door panels, transom windows, interior doors, to entrance systems.”

The next step is design, and both Richards and Pye begin with planning on paper, maintaining contact with clients, going back and forth with conversations and/or emails, to ensure everything is perfect.

Pye works with artist Jillian Gardiner, a painter from Summerside, P.E.I., who began working with SGO Designer Glass after receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts form Memorial University in 2007. She listens, sketches, plans, and transfers the clients request to glass. The final step is installation.

Pye and Gardiner have been called on to re-create memories in glass. “Last fall, we had a lovely customer who wanted to surprise her husband with an interior French door for their summer home,” says Pye. “She sent us a recent picture of him salmon fishing and we then adapted it to a stained-glass design.”

Both Rose Window Stained Glass and SGO Designer Glass aim to bring beauty and light to their clients through creativity. Pye’s company makes stained glass accessible to all, and Richards spends some of her time preserving the art from years ago.

“Protecting our heritage is a responsibility and a privilege. Conservation is a gift we give to the past and the future,” says Richards. Restoration of traditional stained glass involves replacing the lead and repairing any fractures, sometimes reproducing pieces broken beyond repair. 

Exterior windows and doors exposed to the elements age and require upkeep. Traditional stained glass requires delicate work and an expert touch, whereas the upkeep for overlay glass can be done by the homeowner.

Sam Hattie of Sunflower Stripes Stained Glass in Halifax creates items that are aimed at giving everyone, even in apartments and dorms, a chance to enjoy the art form. 

She finds inspiration all around. “I love being outside. There is so much colour and individuality in nature and I love the freedom that gives me to create.” She crafts many custom designs, functional or decorative, adding whimsy and delight to any space. From company logos, business card holders, and candlesticks, to renditions of beloved pets, sea creatures, and vases of flowers, Hattie’s open to all. “I just want to make people smile.”  

Once the art is completed and installed — traditional or modern, big or small — all that’s left to do is to sit back and enjoy the spectacular display of light, texture, and colour.

Melanie Mosher

East Coast Living