I was recently asked to submit some designs for a sculptural glass installation in a unique, modern corporate space. I made mock-ups of structural concepts that would highlight glass as a material without being backlit. Using strip-cut glass, wire, and wood, I built sculptures that project color and cast shadows to create ever changing, dynamic effects.
While I wasn’t chosen for the commission, the proposal was well received, and I learned so much. I had an incredible time thinking outside of the box, playing with ideas and techniques I’ve developed over a lifetime. Assembling materials and solving real-world design challenges of light and space really got my brain working. I think I came away with some solid ideas for future sculptural work. The prospect of large scale, non-representational, secular work is exciting.
C’mon, universe... bring it on.
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.
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.
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).
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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78th Street Studios
1305 West 80th St
Cleveland, OH 44102 USA
Visit us at Studio #108 during OPEN HOUSE every Friday 11 am - 4 pm and THIRD FRIDAYS every third Friday of the month from 5 pm - 9 pm.
**HOURS/EVENTS CURRENTLY SUSPENDED DUE TO COVID-19.**
3 Windows | Residential Restoration Project
Getting Started - ‘Scenic Slides’ Pt. 1 with Bruce Buchanan
Scenic Slide Finished Product