[PA-NJ Glassblowers] Homeowners see class in handblown glass

Tony Patti - Gaffer gaffer at glassblower.info
Fri Jul 20 14:29:01 EDT 2007

If you are interested in glass, I believe you will enjoy today's 
_Philadelphia Inquirer_ article (page E7), which I copy-and-pasted below.

Prior to attending the Glass Art Society (GAS) Conference in Pittsburgh 
last month,
I visited some glass companies in West Virginia, including Wissmach Glass
which makes the type of glass which is described in the article.

I will shortly have on my website photos and videos of them making this  
type of glass (blue when I was there)
poured in between two large rollers (one with an embossed pattern) from 
enormous wheeled ladles which are so large they required two men to 

Tony Patti
gaffer at Glassblower.info

  Homeowners see class in handblown glass

    Buyers are clear on this: They want the subtle beauty of the
    old-world- style leaded craft.

          By Bettijane Levine

            Los Angeles Times

Sheila Balkan in a room lined with custom glass windows, a few of the 60 
in her Venice, Calif., home. She was drawn by the stained glass of 
centuries-old buildings in Paris.
LORI SHEPLER / Los Angeles Times
Sheila Balkan in a room lined with custom glass windows, a few of the 60 
in her Venice, Calif., home. She was drawn by the stained glass of 
centuries-old buildings in Paris.
»  More images 
For centuries, glassblowers tried to get the imperfections out of their 
handblown stained-glass windows. Then, technology made perfection possible.

"Now, homeowners seem to want the imperfections back," says Santa 
Monica, Calif., designer John Everage.

He's one of many architects and designers who say their clients 
increasingly ask for handmade stained-glass windows designed, built and 
installed almost exactly the way it was done 900 years ago.

Whether for a faux chateau, a pseudo palazzo, or a super-sized 
Craftsman, custom stained-glass windows made with handblown glass are 
considered the ultimate finishing touch in some lavish new homes.

With their subtle waviness and tiny bubbles - a tip-off that the glass 
was made by humans, not machines - the windows are luxury items in the 
extreme: Each set is unique, designed specifically for the site, created 
to blend with the architecture and the homeowners' artistic preferences.

Like jewels with a couture outfit, they exude artistry or a patina of 
old-world elegance that completes the architect's vision, and perhaps 
the homeowners' fantasy of living in a different place and time.

Criminologist Sheila Balkan fell in love with stained-glass windows she 
saw in centuries-old buildings during a recent yearlong stay in Paris.

"They made me feel peaceful," she says. Back home in Venice, Calif., she 
didn't want to lose that peaceful feeling. "I wanted to recapture it in 
my house. It became a passion."

Her architect referred her to local craftsman Mark Tuna, who designed 
and made about 60 windows for her two-story Craftsman-style house. "I 
feel like I'm still in Paris," she says.

Don't be misled by the terminology. Today, the term "stained glass" - 
interchangeable with "art glass" or "leaded glass" - is used in home 
design to mean high-quality, custom-made leaded-glass windows that may 
have bits of color or no color at all.

The windows look nothing like the brilliant old church windows usually 
associated with the words /stained glass/. Nor do they resemble the 
craftsy amateur oddities that had a hippie heyday in the '60s and '70s, 
causing the entire genre to lose favor for 20 years or so.

Architects and designers say the windows they commission for new homes 
are predominantly clear, to allow in undiluted light. Or they can be 
clear glass mixed with any of dozens of textured glasses that are used 
to blur visibility and create privacy, eliminating the need for shutters 
or drapes.

Glass artist Arthur Stern, who is based in Benicia, Calif., has 
installed his designs for homes and other buildings in 36 states, Japan, 
Hong Kong and Canada. An expert on Frank Lloyd Wright - he created 92 
windows for the restoration of Wright's Storer house in Los Angeles - 
Stern says Wright preferred to use predominantly clear leaded glass in 
houses. Stern does too, but not totally.

The residential portion of his Web site (www.arthurstern.com 
<http://www.arthurstern.com>) shows the variety of exquisitely subtle 
blends of color and texture Stern has achieved in what he sees as a 
reviving interest in residential leaded glass.

His windows function both as art and as a unifying architectural 
statement that helps tie together diverse spaces in large homes, he 
says. A set of windows he titled "Frozen Music," for example, is a 
single design theme - inspired by Mondrian and De Stijl - carried out in 
multiple variations. Stern used clear and opaque glass, flat glass, and 
thick beveled prisms in doors and windows throughout the vast spaces of 
the client's recently built estate.

His work generally costs $200 to $400 per square foot but can cost more 
or less, depending on quality of glass used and complexity of design.

Windows designed by Tuna, whose Glass Visions studio is near Dodger 
Stadium in Los Angeles, can be whimsical and contemporary or seriously 
old-world and ornate, depending on the preferences of the homeowners and 
their designers.

"Some want complicated leaded-glass patterns. Others want simple clear 
windows with color used sparely as artistic punctuation," he says. The 
glass, often handblown in Europe, is just a starting point. How the lead 
is sculptured - narrow or plump, straight or curvy - is equally 
important to a design, he says.

The trend back to handmade stained-glass residential windows seems to be 
nationwide, says Richard Gross of the Stained Glass Association of 
America and editor of the Stained Glass Quarterly.

"People are rediscovering stained glass as an art form; it's no longer a 
cliche," Gross says.

Still, it's an acquired taste. In the United States, there are fewer 
than 100 full-service stained-glass studios where glass is designed, 
fabricated or restored, Gross says, and most of those firms specialize 
in church work.

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