Stairwell Suite for a Restored Century Home
All of my projects are different. Thank goodness. Different situations call for different solutions. Sometimes you start with a blank slate, and other times you are granted a clue as to what should be. Sometimes things zoom along, and other times there are hang-ups and hiccups. The process is always enjoyable for me, taking ideas and making them into tangible physical things that will last for generations.
This project, a total “to-the-studs” renovation of a Cleveland century home, started with a few remaining bits of a suite of stained glass windows from the stairwell landing.
Above: The majority of the glass was missing, including the entire center section. From the existing glass, I sketched up a riff on the old design.
I matched some of the old glass and took the opportunity to change out the gold background with a lighter, quieter option. The old green circles would be re-used in the new windows along with rows of teal and deep blue, a favorite of the homeowners. In the center panel I hoped to use a medallion of a really exuberant colorful glass that would dazzle the eyes and pull all of the colors of the design together.
The renovation project took quite a while, and the glass was about the last thing to be installed, so I had plenty of time to overthink things. Some of the glass I wanted was unavailable, and the dimensions of the side panels changed along the way. Adjustments were made, and new solutions found. In that time, I also happened upon the gorgeous piece of glass for the center medallion - at an estate sale of all places. It was the right thing at the right time.
The design of the windows is appropriate to the age of the house I think, but also feels fresh and light, and in harmony with the openness of the newly renovated home.
Photos by Bruce Buchanan.
It has been a couple of months since I’ve sent a story or an email newsletter. Normally I do as a reminder for the month’s Third Friday at 78th Street Studios, but with COVID-19, we haven’t been having those. This month the building is trying out a limited event. Shorter hours, fewer participating tenants, attendance capped at 200 tickets, masks worn, and plenty more precautions taken by all involved. I find myself wavering between whether or not it’s too soon or even a good idea, but I am part of an arts community that will have to find a new way forward somehow sooner or later. We are taking baby steps to try to see what might work. Everyone is revamping their online presence, and part of the Third Friday plan is a virtual video tour. I hope you find some way that’s comfortable for you to support your favorite 78th Street Studios artists as we go forward.
In the past couple of months, I got myself caught up on some projects, and have been doing a robust business in leaded glass repairs for homeowners all over town. I’ve done onsite work with masks, distancing, and applicable precautions. My stock of Barcode Blocks was low, so I’m working on a production run of a few hundred of them. That should support peoples’ gift giving needs for a while at least. I’ve made a few new small panels, and another dozen or so of the striped panels that have done so well. The website store is going to be doing more heavy lifting as studio events are likely to be smaller and less frequent.
Of course, the studio is open for visitors by appointment. I’m there most every day working away in solitude anyway. So don’t hesitate if you have a project you’d like to discuss or are looking to purchase a Barcode Block or Panel. I can meet you in the parking lot for a hand-off or come on in. I just ask that you wear a mask and try to practice distancing. People are resilient and flexible. We can figure out the best way forward together.
Above: Recreated Baldwin United Methodist Church window, 756 Elk Mills Rd, Elk Mills, Maryland designed and fabricated in conjunction with Willet Hauser Architectural Glass, Inc.
A few months back, I was asked to recreate a window for a church in Elk Mills, Maryland.
I worked with Willet Hauser & Associated Crafts Inc., a stained glass company with a national reputation that is based in Winona, Minnesota.
The original window, a welcoming Christ with the words, “Come Unto Me” was destroyed in a fire, but the church was being rebuilt. The Christ window behind the altar would be recreated for the new sanctuary.
The challenge was substantial. The church only had a few photographs of the original window to work from, and those left a lot to be desired. Changes in the actual dimensions of the new window meant a slimmer redesign of the background. I worked with the Willet Hauser’s Art Director, Kathy Jordan, and the head of their Painting Department, Melissa Janda, to craft a solution to the task before us.
The whole process from design to completion of the finished window took just under a month. I think we captured the essence of the original and gave the church a beautiful window for their new sanctuary.
Visit just a few of the photos of the Baldwin United Methodist Church Window project as it unfolded in the Photo Album on Facebook.
Photo by Bruce Buchanan
When I moved into 78th Street Studios last July, I already planned on making a batch of my Bar Code Blocks. I had made some a few years earlier, but never really planned to revisit them. People kept liking them and asking for them, though, and as I would now have my own studio in which to show and sell them, I figured that it was time for another batch. The wood was milled and ready to go, and I’d surely get some together by the 2017 Christmas Season.
Well, here it is March! I still hardly have the time to get these guys assembled, but I got the glass cut and laid out and am committed to having at least some ready for the Third Friday open house. I love these things. They are joyful and substantial and say almost nothing. Come and get ‘em!
Zoeller Front Door Transom Window - 66" x 12" 2005
One of my first stained glass commissions was an exuberant floral transom. Like many budding artists, I was still working my day job (building and repairing windows for churches) but yearning to do something different and more expressive - something of my own design. Also like many budding artists, my first real commission was for a member of my family, in this case, my sister, Gwenn. When she said she was interested in having a piece of my work over her front door, I jumped at the opportunity. I would pull out all the stops and make a doozie of a window for her. I was going to pack every technique and skill I could into this exciting commission (a budding artist move if there ever was one).
Studio #108 ready for visitors on the weekend of the Cleveland Bazaar Holiday Sale
Busy is good.
It has been months since I wrote anything in this work journal of mine. I know it is supposed to be a discipline, but there have been SO many other things to do. Work. Jobs for churches, jobs for other studios, jobs for new clients. I've been calling it "pleasantly overbooked." I am enjoying the heck out of it. It's never boring, and there is always something to be done.
Third Fridays, the Open Studio nights at 78th Street Studios, have been great exposure. I've met countless homeowners, contractors, realtors and design professionals who are interested in my work. The most common reaction is that people are happy to know there is someone out there still doing this kind of work, particularly residential restoration. There are so many lovely stained and leaded glass windows in the century homes of Greater Cleveland that are due for some attention and maintenance. Even the simplest of them are examples of fine craftsmanship. I am glad to be available to repair and restore them so they can be enjoyed for another hundred years.
The studio has come a long way.
The bank building at the end of the street I grew up on, as it once looked.
The work I do is generally not garish. For the most part, I help quiet, old, beautiful things stay quiet, old, and beautiful. A few days ago, I posted a picture of a gorgeous piece of multicolored glass with the caption that, "I cannot not like this piece of glass." Y'see, I am not a fan of the whimsical color splash. I think a lot of times it is just a cheap, easy way to say, "Look! This is ART!" I have tried to not like that sheet of glass, but it is just too good. There is skill and craftsmanship and an amazing amount of know-how wrapped up in that beautiful thing. It is not representative of the lion's share of the work that I do, but I appreciate the heck out of it, and it is joyful, so I share it.
Like I said, most of my work is quiet, old, and beautiful. I love the order and geometry, and the fact that it has stood the test of time. There is history and culture in the design language of these old things, so I try to learn from them and appreciate them. This week, I repaired a sweet little cabinet door with a beveled shield. Simple and timeless. It speaks to the aesthetic of the time the house was built. The homeowner said it had been in storage since they bought the house because they didn't know anyone who could repair it. Twenty-three years. All it needed was a couple pieces of glass replaced, a couple of hours to get that beautiful thing back in shape. Now it can be put back where it was meant to be, and appreciated again. Yesterday I spoke with a potential client in the same predicament. Her window has only been waiting for seventeen years.
I am heartened to see that people care about these things and appreciate them enough to mothball them until the right thing can be done. Maintenance, care and appreciation of things is complicated It takes time, money, and knowledge. Often times more of any of these than one can imagine will ever be available. Patience pays off, tho. The fast, cheap, solution rarely stands the test of time.
Studio #108 with a fraction of its eventual contents.
Last night, Friday, July 21st 2017, was my first open studio event at my new business home, 78th Street Studios. What a blast. I only received the keys for the space on the first of the month, and in the weeks between then and now, I took a long awaited vacation to Prague (incredibly beautiful and old), totaled my beloved pickup truck (small accident, big consequence), and purchased my first-ever brand new vehicle (unexpected, but super-cute and absolutely what I need right now.) Add this to a summer where I lost my Mother, left my job of 10+ years, and started a business from scratch, and it would be an understatement to say that I am in a major state of flux. "Un-moored" I told someone. But with the love, support, and hands-on help of family and friends, I (we) pulled this unruly mess together, and it's starting to take shape. The dream I've been building in my head exists in the real world. While it certainly hasn't unfolded the way I thought it would, I am beyond pleased with the way things have turned out. Opening my door to the public last night was validating. I talked with strangers and neighbors and potential clients about the work I love in a place that is beginning to feel like home. I know it's "Progress, not Perfection", but last night felt pretty darned perfect. Thanks, everyone. Onward!
A small selection of mouthblown German glass from Glashutte Lamberts.
Yesterday, I signed for and received the Lamberts Glass Sample Set that I ordered. Perhaps nothing I have done in the past few months of getting my business ready for the real world has been so satisfying. Even to order it, one has to have gotten an account and to have proven themselves to be a real business. Check and check. And then, it ain’t cheap. Deciding to purchase the set is a commitment to the fact that I’m going to work this sample set hard - that I am going to turn this box of information into serious work and profit. Commitment made.
The wooden box itself is a nice object. 11” x 13”, and about 5” deep, it is dovetailed and has a hinged top. It is built to last. The ones I’ve used in the past have been around for decades. This one is squeaky clean, and the dings and marks it will collect over the years will be mine.
It is the contents, tho, that make me giddy. Hundreds of colors. Shiny, rich, palpable colors. Each sample is only about 2 x 3 inches. From these little, hand-held samples, you order big, beautiful sheets of handmade, mouth-blown glass that measure approximately 2 x 3 feet. And, oh, the color. Sitting in the box, they are just dark and unremarkable, but in the light, they come alive. So many shades of nuanced greens and triumphant blues. Calm greys and exuberant ambers. Regal purples, natural browns, and every imaginable gorgeous shade of red. And they’re not just crayons to mark with or a fixed paint color to cover a surface. They are magic. They change with the amount of light and time of day. The intensity of each color varies by the thickness of the piece of glass. Bubbles and imperfections alter the effect of light as it passes through. It’s kind of a heady thought, but colored glass in light might be the closest we come to handling a physical representation of pure color.
And I get to play with it.
Or, um, work. Yeah. Work.
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Visit us for OPEN HOUSE every Friday 11 am - 4 pm and during THIRD FRIDAYS every third Friday of the month from 5 pm - 9 pm.
78th Street Studios
1305 West 80th St
Cleveland, OH 44102 USA
3 Windows | Residential Restoration Project
Getting Started - ‘Scenic Slides’ Pt. 1 with Bruce Buchanan
Scenic Slide Finished Product