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Stained Glass Windows
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Stained glass windows have grown popular in home interior decoration, according to artisan Steve Thompson, who designs, creates, and installs stained glass. So popular is stained glass that for the past six to eight years, Thompson's clients have requested stained glass almost to the exclusion of beveled glass, a 1980's favorite. Factored into these homeowners' decisions is a home buying trend towards more traditional, period homes--in new constructions and remodeling. And in keeping with period fashion, homeowners are requesting authentic designs in the European style of painted and fired leaded glass, says Thompson.

An ancient art form that experienced its golden age in early European cathedrals and basilicas during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, stained glass adds, even today, a touch of mystery, glamour, and formality to almost any room. Yet if they're choosing stained glass for a traditional look, homeowners are installing the stained glass in surprisingly non-traditional locations--skylights, doorways, baths, kitchens, and bars.

"Good stained glass has to reflect the architecture," says John Kebrle, a stained glass craftsman for fifty years and son of John Kebrle, who established Kebrle Stained Glass Studio in 1920. "If it's a home, it should reflect the interior decor and taste of the owner. If they (homeowners) are faithful to the interior decor, they will do something that is compatible. That doesn't always happen. I guess that's considered eclectic."

Although subject ideas that complement traditional and eclectic to the contemporary-modern are available in books found in the libraries and book stores, nearly all stained glass is custom designed and crafted by artisans.

Among Kebrle's recent creations are (1) a modern abstract design for a small window in the home of a photographer and (2) an extensive twelve foot rose window with roses, bouquets of wildflowers, and tulips in a skylight near the entry of a home owner who loves the roses and flowers in her gardens. One of Thompson's creations is a traditional Gothic style stained glass window that allows partial transparency of the exterior landscape and also backdrops a bar in the home of John and Debby Tolleson.

Crafting stained glass has remained essentially the same for centuries and is intractably bound to glass and lead. Following standard procedure, Kebrle created a window with chickens for homeowners working with interior designer A. H. Allen. First, Kebrle painted a rooster and hen in a rocky, wildflower scene. From this blueprint, he drew a cartoon--the exact cutline and pattern for each section of glass. Using special double-bladed scissors to allow space for the supporting core of lead, Kebrle cut out the patterns. Then using glass cutters, he cut identically matching fragments of colored glass. He painted the fragments and fired them in a kiln to fuse the paint and glass. Once all the pieces were prepared, Kebrle assembled the glass and lead puzzle. Finally, he soldered the lead and glass joints into a waterproofed glass plate--in this case a transom over an interior doorway. The cost was about $250 per square foot, an average price, according to Kebrle. Costs vary according to the intricacies in the subject and choice of glass, but generally range from $100 to $500 a square foot.

Beverly and Gary Golden wanted stained glass in their home, a Victorian two-story rambler with a spacious front porch. They selected beveled and frosted glass for the front door and put stained glass windows on interior surfaces--a ceiling light, transoms, and the half-bath. One exception was an exterior stained glass window beside the tub in the master bath. The opaque window, designed and created by artisan John Hall to match the border of roses that Beverly-a professional stenciler-had outlined on the walls near the ceiling in her master bedroom, featured a rose corsage and a blue ribbon on a peach marbled background.

Stained glass of a single, multidimensional flower design hangs over a central work station in the Golden's kitchen. Hall created a special box to fit around the florescent light fixture to house the stained glass. When turned on, the light adds brilliance to the image. Even when the light's turned off, the marbled glass fixture still draws attention to the ceiling.

Stained glass is the only art entirely developed in the Christian era. Today, while secular public buildings are a secondary market and homeowners are a growing third market, religious structures remain the single largest market for stained glass windows. Although not the standard household item, stained glass has remained perennially a popular decoration feature for some homes. And now with the proliferation of new ideas for using stained glass in non-traditional settings, stained glass may appear in more and more interior designs in the future.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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