Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver

The original window is over a hundred years old and had been painted by a master glass painter in Quebec. There had been extensive damage to some of the painted areas including the particularly finely painted soldier’s head. Not long after our arrival in Vancouver, we were asked to recreate these painted areas and work with another company who would re-lead the window and re-install it.  We get asked fairly often to collaborate on projects, however we currently have a policy not to do so as all aspects of restoring painted stained glass require extensive knowledge of actual glass painting, and the vast majority of stained glass companies do not have this experience. The condition of the paint, how it was originally fired and whether it fused correctly with the surface of the glass, determines the approach taken when removing, dismantling, cleaning and re-leading the window. This type of restoration was the staple diet of the work we had to perfect as apprentices; learning to recreate multiple styles of painting taught us a painting “language” that we could hone and adapt in our own work.

From the remaining fragments of damaged glass the colour and type of glass was established. We could also determine the binder used in the original paint, whether it was oil or water based, and the depth of tone, strength of line, and above all the painting techniques employed by the original artist. Even down to the application of silver stain and to what depth and temperature we would have to fire the new piece so as to have it match the original as closely as possible. Restoration is a very rewarding discipline, one that has a very different goal than a new commission. Successfully restoring a window means it should appear to those who view it in years to come as though it were never damaged; the new areas blending so skillfully with the original that they cannot be differentiated. All that should be apparent is that the window is beautiful, as it was when it was first created.