What is Gilroy Stained Glass’ background?
Laura and I (John) have been involved in producing stained glass since 1984 when we began an intensive apprentice education in one of England’s oldest studios, founded in 1788, where we mastered the traditional skills used in creating new windows and in the preservation and restoration of existing windows.This type of education, with skilled and experienced artists teaching younger artists, is very rare now that many of the large and long established studios have closed. We were the final artists to have completed our training before James Clark and Eaton of Bristol closed their doors for the last time, and we feel honoured that we can trace our professional lineage back over 150 years.
It was a natural progression in 1999 to become Gilroy Stained Glass and achieve our ambition of opening our own studio. Laura, as the primary designer, was elected an Associate of the British Society of Master Glass Painters (AMGP) in 2000, and our work is regularly featured in the Journal of Stained Glass, published in London. Subsequently, we wanted more opportunity to expand our design and glass painting opportunities, and this led to the decision to move to North America where newer buildings increase this kind of opportunity. Our research, and Laura’s heritage in Canada, led us in 2005 to Vancouver, Canada, as a location where we could further our portfolio in a beautiful and stimulating environment.
What influence can stained glass have on an architectural setting, and what sets it apart from other art forms?
We believe that stained glass influences the architectural setting in a way no other art form can; casting hues of colour with changeable nuances and providing a new dimension each time it is viewed. Many of our design projects influence the artistic style and ambiance for the whole building; providing a stunning focal point or a soothing visual pathway.
What is the difference between authentic stained glass and a leaded window?
Authentic stained glass refers to glass that has been painted, stained and kiln fired; staining being the process from which stained glass derives its name. This allows a greater depth and complexity of image than is possible with glass and lead alone. What has become synonymous with stained glass in contemporary culture is only the beginning of what it is possible to create within this extraordinary art form.
For people who haven’t yet considered having a stained glass window in their home, what type of designs do you think work best?
Each home is completely unique, a reflection of the people who live there and how they view their world. Our work evolves from that, so we would create a design that feels to the client as though it should always have been there. We know that our art is always evolving, each commission is an exciting opportunity to use the traditional artistry of glass painting within a vibrant, contemporary setting.
Any source can be inspiration for our work. We can even pay homage to a beloved image, such as we did with our recent window celebrating Vermeer’s painting “The Glass of Wine”, translating it in such a way that the original essence remains yet it has all the qualities and structure that make for a beautiful and strong stained glass window.
Do you feel that churches still need stained glass artists?
Absolutely! Stained glass and the Christian Church have been identifiable with one another for centuries; a beautiful window enriches and provides a source of inspiration and teaching. Stained glass painting by applying line and tone to white and coloured glasses has not changed in essence since Medieval times, however contemporary stained glass makes use of tinted glass and a variety of depth of colour in place of heavy muted colours, making the church seem to belong more to the outside world.
Many of the older churches in British Columbia are now coming to a point where original windows are starting to need attention due to age or damage. The preservation of these windows is immensely important to the history of stained glass in Canada.
Restoration is a careful process, requiring specific training and experience, it is imperative that the restorer have extensive knowledge of glass painting. Without complete understanding of the original artist’s technique of paint application and kiln firing, much irreversible damage can be done to the painted details and tonal values.
What is the process for commissioning a window, from initial design through to installation? How long can it take? How do you involve the client along the way?
After discussions with our client, we create a scaled water-colour design that captures our vision for the unique commission. We always create our designs by hand using black ink and water-colour because we have found that this medium is the closest representation of the translucent quality of glass.
The next stage is the production by hand of a full size working drawing, known as the cartoon, that shows the painted details and tones and the positioning of the leads. From this a structural drawing, known as the cutline, is made which contains information for the fabrication of the window, such as width of lead cames to be used and positioning of support bars. The cutline determines the exact shapes of the glass, and each piece is carefully selected with reference to the design for type and colour. When the glass selection and cutting is completed all the pieces are then laid on a light table to double check that they are working together as envisaged.
There are then several stages of applying paint to the glass, which combine to gradually build up the tonal values of the image. The colour always comes from the glass itself; the application of painted line and tonal values allow us to influence how the light is viewed through that colour. The glass is fired in the kiln after each painting stage, which means that each piece can be fired several times before it’s finished. During firing, the temperature of the glass reaches approximately 700ºC fusing the paint into the surface of the glass permanently.
The next stage is assembling all the individual pieces of glass together using “H” section lead cames and soldering the joints; ensuring that all is structured in such a way as to be both beautiful and enduring. The window is strengthened by brushing a specialized oil based putty into the spaces between the flanges of the leads and the glass. Lastly, the window is installed in position.
The time it takes to create a stained glass window using traditional techniques varies enormously, it really depends on the size of the project and the complexity of the design. At the beginning of each of our commissions we discuss with the client how long we anticipate the artwork will take to complete. Our clients are involved as much or as little as they would like, most view it as an opportunity to be a part of the creation. International clients are kept up to date by stage photographs and have, on occasion, flown in just to see some of the painting stage.
How much does a stained glass window cost?
Cost is usually a major consideration, some people see the quality of our work and assume that they won’t be able to afford us, however we assure you that all commissions are individually designed to fit your specific requirements and that includes budget. As this is a hand-made art form, the price is affected by the size, complexity of design, the type of glass chosen and treatment of the glass such as etching, glass painting and kiln firing- there is a design option to suit your budget.
How would you describe the style of your work?
Our technique of glass painting is almost a reverse pointillism that we have refined and continue to develop; creating complex depth of tonal values and contrast of light and shade which emphasize the inherent jewel-like quality of antique mouth blown glass. We never use air brushing, and still adhere to painting by hand using brushes and the point of a needle for extremely fine work.
What are the company’s areas of expertise?
We specialize in traditional and contemporary glass painting at our studio in Vancouver, Canada, creating completely unique bespoke stained glass windows for discerning clients who value original art.