The Journalist Rings
Bless her, she’d been asked to write an article for next February’s Homes & Gardens (and she’d rung us five months early because she knew how busy we get …):
“I’m writing about buying and using stained glass and I’ve been looking at your website with great interest …
(What a lovely journalist, I thought.)
… I need to find out about the various options available to buy, and also who can restore them …
… Can you help me please?”
Her voice was friendly enough, but I must admit I was immediately on my guard.
Like you, I’ve seen plenty of cases where words have mysteriously changed their context, or had their qualfications left out, and that’s the last thing anyone needs when the subject’s stained glass restoration.
So we proceded as gingerly as Kennedy and Khrushchev discussing missile placements on the lovely island of Cuba.
And one of things we talked about was how stained glass can be re-sized.
It’s a familiar problem.
A piece made for one particular setting has been removed and must now be made to fit a new setting.
And I was duly reminded of this classic example from our casebook of stained glass adventures and challenges.
The Loving Couple
Some time back, our client approached us with two magnificent pieces of painted stained glass. Here’s one of them:
Naturally, this elegant gentleman was accompanied by a demurely blushing damsel.
To transform these two pieces, each one measuring 12 inches across by 18 inches high, into a pair of stained glass windows, each one measuring 26 inches across by 78 inches high.
Now, to perform this kind of operation, you have to respect the spirit of the original, whilst also taking into account the new location.
If I tell you that the new location was an ornately gilded dressing room within an 18th century mansion across the sea on mainland Europe, then you’ll see that a great many options were swiftly ruled out.
Our client being a person of considerable influence, we gave the matter our deepest thought.
And then we remembered our priceless book of leaded light designs from 1615.
Our personal copy dates from 1895. Here’s the splendid frontispiece:
Let me translate:
Book of sundry drafts
principally serving for glaziers
and not impertinent for plasterers and gardeners
besides sundry other professions
Surely this 400-year old collection of leaded lights would prove to be our inspiration!
We spent a happy hour reminding ourselves of these exquisite designs.
And then we came across this one here:
We were away!
The first task was, with surgical precision (not to mention our ruler and set square), to use the original scale drawing to map out the full-sized cut-line. (Those of you who’ve mapped out “simple” diamond quarries will know that a job like this takes time and patience.) You can see here how, in the middle, we prepared a space for the original stained glass (from which we had taken a “rubbing”):
The second task was, with equal care, to cut the glass. Here we used glass that was made specially for us by our nearby glass blower. (Machine-rolled glass would all have been too uniform and lifeless.)
Finally, the assembly: with a geometric pattern like this one, the leading had to be exact …
… with neatly abutting leads (or else the soldering will fail):
Once cemented and polished, we had a look:
Our lips began to quiver. Our eyes went moist. We knew the day would soon come when we would be obliged to return the glass to its rightful owner.
It never gets any easier to say goodbye!
At least these windows had once been ours to look at.
Original Designs from 1615
It’s no exaggeration to say these designs are extraordinary.
Just imagine if more stained glass windows had such richness and complexity.
Are you interested?