Different Styles of
Stained Glass Designers
Stained glass has fascinated people for centuries. Its beginnings can be traced
back to the Church of St. Paul, near Rome, built by Constantine in 337 A.D, in which
mosaic windows were held in place by metal frames or pierced stone slabs. Painted glass
windows, however, date from about the time of Charlemagne, 800 A.D.
Early in the 12th century, the monk Theophilus first recorded an ancient
glassmaking formula which when heated turned a pale green color. As the craftsman applied
more heat, the mixture turned a warm purple.
Later, they colored glass by adding metallic oxides and salts to the molten ash-and-sand
mixture during the process of fusion. Different temperatures produced different colors. In
the beginning, the colors were limited to red, blue, purple, green and yellow. They
created red, the most difficult to produce, by throwing copper filings and flakes of iron
into the molten mixture. For rich, azure blues, they used cobalt oxides. Copper dioxide
produced green, manganese oxide purple, and dioxide of manganese yellow.
The term "stained glass" refers to the basic coloring of molten glass, the point
at which color becomes fused with clear glass. It came into use at the beginning of the
19th century as a contraction of "painted and stained glass." In the Middle
Ages, it was simply called "glass" or glaziers' work." Gathering the molten
glass on the end of his blowing tube, the glass blower blew the liquid into a rough
sphere, and, by swinging and twisting, obtained a cylindrical shape. This was cut at both
ends, opened along its axis, and allowed to cool. It was then placed in an annealing oven
and reheated, causing the glass to flatten out on a stone, forming a small sheet of uneven
thickness. Made in this way, medieval glass--like today's "antique glass"--had
considerable variations of thickness, causing greater and lesser intensities of color
within each sheet. This harmonious union of flaws and irregularities, reams and air
bubbles, caused the glass to refract the sun's rays, making the now-colored light dance
After being cut, each glass piece was placed in position and inserted into its lead
channel and soldered at the joints until a panel of predetermined size could be lifted in
one piece. A putty-like compound was then hand-rubbed into the areas between the lead
flanges and the surface of the glass, making it weatherproof and providing additional
strength as well. The completed windows were made up of a number of panels set between
iron crossbars, additionally supported with tied and soldered small square rods fashioned
by a blacksmith.
Different Styles of Stained Glass
There are almost as many different styles of stained glass windows as there are
windows, themselves. The 13th century, the age of "cathedral glory," saw windows
that had a shimmering, ethereal quality, as if matter had been transformed. Negative
space, in the form of paint and lead, allowed some colors to merge harmoniously, while
others seemed to dance and vibrate with the movement of the sun. As evening approached,
the iridescent jewels of color began to dull, receding into an atmosphere of peace and
tranquility. Grisalle and semi-grisalle windows--those with a light monochromatic color
scheme--were used frequently in churches toward the end of the 13th century, probably due
to a demand for increased interior light.
It's sometimes supposed that enamel painting on stained glass is a relatively late
innovation. While it was possible to make a patterned or pictorial window entirely of
glass and lead work, such windows weren't produced until after the end of the Middle Ages.
In a good stained glass window, the lead work isn't only a container for the glass but
also an integral part of the design, but the details of a picture, such as the features of
faces, folds of drapery or petals of a rosette were from the earliest times
done by painting with a brush dipped in black enamel pigment derived from iron.
The old techniques were all but obliterated during the 17th and 18th centuries,
becoming a lost art. With the Gothic Revival Period of Victorian times came a call for
pure color in glass once again. But now designers no longer created windows just for
churches. The glazier again became as important as the glass painter, and
once more became an integral part of window design.
Stained Glass Designers
Stained glass is to this day often the production of virtually unnamed artists.
Later 19th-century glaziers all signed their work. Sometimes these
"signatures" were merely symbols, such as a monk in a habit as a sign of the
Powell family of Whitefriars, England. Some hid their initials somewhere in the glass
design. The signature, if there is one, should be authenticated, according to Michael
Delaware, president of Artistic Glass of Roswell (Atlanta), Ga.
Of all the stained glass designers, Tiffany is probably the most well known to
Americans. "Though he pioneered in stained glass windows in America at the turn of
the century, he, himself, never personally made any of his windows," said Delaware.
Later, as World War I took its toll on the world's economy, Frank Lloyd Wright
embraced the Art Deco style for his window designs, helping to further the interest in
non-religious stained glass.
But not everyone can collect large windows. For one thing, they can't be hung like a
painting. Most need to be mounted permanently. Though larger ones sell from $5,000 to
$50,000, smaller, more common window designs are available from $200-300, according to
Jeff Venturella, owner of the Architectural Emporium in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. "We've got plenty of transoms in their original frames. Many people
hang these in front of their regular windows. I suggest this because if they're built in,
they can't take them with them if they sell their house."
There's only one major stained glass museum in the world--The Stained Glass Museum of
Ely Cathedral, in Ely, England. It displays over 100 panels, tracing the history of the
craft from medieval to modern times, at eye-level so that they can be viewed closely.